• Victorian Government to introduce new anti-bullying laws
  • 600 intervention court orders this year against children
  • New laws to focus on mediation
  • 10% of Australian teenagers are victims of cyber-bullying

The changes come at a time when more children are taking out intervention orders against other children in an attempt to deal with the growing number of cases of school bullying, especially cyber-bullying.

Former cyber-safety project officer with the Victoria Police and Generation Next speaker, Susan McLean said the increase in cyber-bullying at schools meant that the student’s concerns needed to be resolved immediately in order to avoid long term trauma for the victims.

If these new laws are to be effective they must be supported by extensive training in cyber-bullying for all mediators, school councillors and teachers.

“They can’t wait six weeks for mediation – that would defeat the purpose,” Ms McLean said. “As an adult, if someone sends you something nasty you delete it. Children read and re-read.”

There are also concerns that teachers are not equipped to deal with both the increased cases of bullying and the nature it is now taking, which includes cyber-bullying, stalking and acts of violence including the use of weapons.

Research carried out by online bullying expert Dr Spears, a senior lecturer at the University of South Australia surveyed 700 student teachers “we know pretty well all universities are giving pre-service teachers behaviour management courses, but we need to focus on the specifics of how you help somebody. If a child comes to me then what do we do?” Dr Spears said.

“If we’re looking for a whole school community response (to cyber-bullying) then we can’t ignore the people training to be teachers.”

“There’s an understanding that these young people are digital natives, online and offline their worlds are one and the same,” she said.

“The fact is nothing is private online,” Dr Spears said. “If the information is there it can be accessed. Young people need to realise once it is there it is there forever.”

For this reason, it was important for Internet users to adopt the rule of thumb: What goes online stays online, she said.

The National Centre Against Bullying is also calling for all student teachers to receive compulsory and comprehensive training in both bullying prevention and bullying management during their training.

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: National Centre Against Bullying.