As parents get their kids back to school, it’s not just school excursions and homework that are discussion topics, so will cyberbullying. In the wake of a disturbing surge in cyberbullying incidents, Australian parents and carers are being called to arms to reinforce online safety measures and hold crucial conversations with their children. The stark rise in reports to Australia’s eSafety Commissioner illuminates the urgency of this growing issue.
2,383 instances of cyberbullying which were reported in 2023, a significant jump from 1,700 in the previous year, with children aged 12 to 15 years being most affected.
Acting eSafety Commissioner Kathryn King suggests that the beginning of the school year is a prime time for cyber bullying discussions. With the majority of cyberbullying reports occurring during school terms, it’s evident that online harassment often mirrors the playground dynamics. King emphasises the importance of creating an open dialogue, encouraging children to approach their parents about any online discomfort and to conduct themselves respectfully towards others.
“Before school returns, it’s helpful to sit down with your children to reassure them they can always come to you if they see anything online that makes them feel uncomfortable – but to also remind them to treat others with respect.”
Ms King went on to say,
“It’s also helpful to discuss why any parental and privacy controls are in place for their safety and agree on when and where they can use their devices.”
The group of cyberbullying harms topping the eSafety’s list this year includes vicious name-calling, disturbing images or videos, impersonations via fake accounts, threats, and unwanted contact. Alarmingly, girls are the primary targets, accounting for two-thirds of the reports, while boys are involved in nearly a third, and gender-diverse children are not spared either.
40% jump in child bullying reports to eSafety – Key Stats
a. Percentage of cyberbullying reports by calendar year – State and Territory
Percentage of cyberbullying reports by age – 2023
Top 5 reported harms in 2023
The call to action is clear: parents and carers need to be proactive, not only by setting up parental controls and privacy measures but also by engaging in regular conversations about their children’s online interactions. The eSafety Commissioner’s office is offering free webinars for Safer Internet Day on February 6 to aid in this endeavour, advocating for three simple steps: Connect safely, reflect on online behaviour, and protect oneself and others.
The eSafety team stands as a safety net, offering support and resources to remove harmful content when platforms fall short. King’s message is unequivocal: online safety isn’t a one-off task but a continuous process of guidance and support to ensure children navigate the digital world securely.