Cyber bul­ly­ing leads to rise in calls for help

The Weekend Australian - - THE NATION - PAIGE TAY­LOR

Cyber bul­ly­ing has con­trib­uted to a5 per cent rise in the num­ber of sui­cide-re­lated calls to Kids Helpline, the coun­selling ser­vice that be­lieves teach­ing chil­dren em­pa­thy and re­silience is just as im­por­tant as tougher laws for on­line ha­rass­ment and abuse.

Mal­colm Turn­bull’s re­sponse to the sui­cide of bul­lied teen Amy “Dolly” Everett in­cluded a heart­felt Face­book post declar­ing that “ev­ery step must be taken to re­duce the in­ci­dence of bul­ly­ing, whether off­line or on, and elim­i­nate it wher­ever we can”.

“Much more work is needed, from gov­ern­ments, health groups and the in­ter­net com­pa­nies them­selves, to pre­vent cyber bul­ly­ing, stop it when it oc­curs and to min­imise its im­pact when it does oc­cur,’’ the Prime Min­is­ter said.

Kids Helpline, which re­ceives more than seven mil­lion calls and we­bchat mes­sages from or about chil­dren and young peo­ple ev­ery year, yes­ter­day re­vealed that in the 24 months to De­cem­ber there had been a 5 per cent in­crease in re­quests for help from chil­dren who were think­ing about sui­cide or peo­ple who were wor­ried about a child think­ing about sui­cide.

Kids Helpline’s vir­tual ser­vices man­ager Tony Fitzger­ald said this amounted to an ex­tra 3000 calls for help, with many re­lated to cyber bul­ly­ing.

While Dolly’s death has prompted de­bate about Aus­tralia’s cyber-bul­ly­ing laws and apps that al­low chil­dren to ha­rass and abuse anony­mously, Mr Fitzger­ald said his or­gan­i­sa­tion be­lieved crim­i­nal prose­cu­tion could only ever be one part of a broader so­lu­tion.

He said Kids Helpline’s ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram in schools in ev­ery state taught pri­mary-school-aged kids about em­pa­thy and how to cope with bul­ly­ing.

“The law en­force­ment side of things is only one as­pect of deal­ing with cyber bul­ly­ing — we would also say we need to be proac­tive rather than re­ac­tive, and that starts from a very early age,” Mr Fitzger­ald said.

“It starts by teach­ing val­ues around re­spect, it starts by help­ing kids learn em­pa­thy and by teach­ing kids more re­silience and bet­ter cop­ing skills.’’

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