EDITORIAL | Cyberbullying now huge problem

Minto schoolgirl Tyiesha Hair is full of smiles now but last year while still in primary school, bullies made her so unhappy and stressed she contemplated suicide.

Tyiesha endured schoolyard and online abuse for months before finally seeking help to make it stop.

Luckily Tyiesha is once again well, happy and confident, but her ordeal recounted on today’s front page today, should send a chill through every parent anxious to protect their children and adolescents from bullies and the 24/7 nature of online abuse.

The ability of bullies to torment victims has increased exponentially with the advent of the internet and social media platforms, now so popular any youngster not using them risks being labelled an oddity.

Most children, we are told, have used least one social media network by the age of 10 and apparently more than half of all children aged 8-16 ignore Facebook’s official minimum age of 13.

Many of them will eventually experience some form of cyberbullying. Tyiesha’s exposure to and experience with online abuse is neither novel nor rare. She is far from the odd one out.

Experts say it has become a deeply embedded problem with one in five young people under the age of 18 reporting that they have been bullied in any one year.

It doesn’t take a genius to do the math …. such stats mean literally thousands of children across Campbelltown, Camden and Wollondilly are, or have been, victims of cyberbullying.

So who is responsible for the fix?

Some say cyberbullying is an issue for schools and teachers to manage and indeed, plenty of schools have supported and run programs which endeavour to teach kids about safe relationships both online and off, but ultimately it is parents who must run the ball up and take responsibility for ensuring their kids are safe in the digital world.

Most cyberbullying takes place outside of schools so it’s vital that parents learn to combat the issue. It’s not appropriate to flick-pass the problem back to teachers.

There’s no denying that cyberbullying is difficult to tackle but several websites, full of useful information and tips, are but a few clicks away and will make navigating that place much easier.

Esafety.gov.au is one such website, another is kidshelpline.com.au. Check them out. It’ll be time well spent.

                                                – Editor Roma Dickins