Cyberbullying can have serious implications and should be taken seriously, according to Cootamundra’s Inspector Frank Brown.
Inspector Brown has welcomed new NSW laws that are aimed at preventing perpetrators from using modern technology to stalk or intimidate their victims.
The changes are designed to protect people from serious online abuse, ranging from cyberbullying and trolling, through to the stalking and harassment of victims of domestic and personal violence.
The changes were not aimed at policing free speech, but at preventing abuse, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
I think bullying has been around for a long time, but it is the pervasiveness of cyberbullying that makes it harder to escapeCSU lecturer Gene Hodgins
Inspector Brown encouraged social media users to make sure their security settings were correct and that their online information was safe.
He said there were options such as blocking other users from social media, which could be used, but if problems persisted, they should contact police.
Inspector Brown said there was a lot of advice and links for reporting issues on the website of the eSafety Commissioner had a lot of advice and links for reporting issues.
Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke has also backed the beefing up of the Crimes Act.
“In our country communities and smaller villages the internet can be an invaluable source of connection to our friends and family who we might be geographically isolated from,” Ms Cooke said.
“Ensuring that we don’t allow this platform to be hijacked for abuse, intimidation and bullying is absolutely vital.
“No one should be made to feel unsafe online.
“This new legislation will soon be introduced into Parliament but in the meantime, I encourage any victims of online abuse in any form to come forward and report this criminal behaviour to this police.”
Charles Sturt University lecturer in psychology Gene Hodgins believes cyberbullying is hard to escape.
“I think bullying has been around for a long time, but it is the pervasiveness of cyberbullying that makes it harder to escape,” Associate Professor Hodgins said.
“There is less respite now. When you don’t have time out it can become overwhelming fairly quickly.
“With social media young people, and adults, can get into as little bubble and it becomes all-consuming.”
The lack of face-to-face interaction may also make cyberbullying easier, Associate Professor Hodgins said.
Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network CEO Melissa Neal said cyberbullying could lead to mental health issues.
“What we do know is that across the Murrumbidgee region, which is reflective of the national statistics, is just over a quarter of all young people aged between five and 17 years, will be living with a diagnosed mental health issue,” Ms Neal said.
“We also know that across Australia 70 per cent of mental illness and suicidal behaviours begin between the ages of 12 and 25,” Ms Neal said.
“These statistics mean it’s important we ensure there are services available to support young people’s wellbeing and mental health, which may be impacted as a result of bullying.”
If you need support, call the NSW Mental Health Line: 1800 011 511, Lifeline: 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467, or Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800