NetHui 2011 – Day 1: Digital Citizenship – Cyber-Bullying

Digital Citizenship – Combating Cyber-bullying & Harassment

Stream led by: John Fenaughty (NetSafe)

Perhaps the most notable example of standing up against bullying of recent times is that of 16-year old Australian Casey Haynes story (YouTube “Fat Kid takes on Bully”) a video that went viral both online and via traditional prime time media.

When asked, 33.2% of youth surveyed reported they had experienced some form of cyber-bullying in the past year and 52.9% of those had found it distressing.

That’s 17.6% of New Zealand youth surveyed having experienced ‘distressing cyber-bullying’ in the past year – it’s an offensive statistic for anyone wishing to better the environment in which we work, entertain and educate ourselves.

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We broke into small groups to discuss the question “Where do you think most people lay the blame for cyber-bullying?”

  • Parents / Teachers for lack of supervision
    • However noted that they can’t be everywhere
  • It’s about modeling
  • Bravery of the keyboard?
  • Context of the event or the medium - 140chars leads to ambiguous messaging

Not about blame, it’s about responsibility, it’s about teaching how to deal with it – bullying happens, that’s not an acceptance, just a statement. The major issues with instances of online ‘cyber-bullying’ is:

  • the permanence,
  • the public nature
  • the fact that discovery is so much harder online than in the real-world, playground events.

‘Cyber-bullying’ is hard to combat. It’s hard to remove offending content and, while many social networks claim an interest in removing such content, there is still a very long process for take downs during which time the content both continues to cause upset and becomes copied across to other hosts.

Counter bullying also occurs, this can be just as harmful and can also lead to trouble for those doing what they think is ‘right’ in standing up for the original victim. One of the attendees from Otago University put it very well when he stated that:

[The Internet has led to the…] democratisation of bullying, now anyone can be a bully

Interestingly, kids don’t tend to see a distinction between real-world and online bullying but we (the older generations) do. Also of note is that NetSafe is getting more calls from adults as victims of cyber-bullying then from kids. There were no conclusions drawn as to the reasons for this, perhaps adults are more willing to research and seek help for themselves, whereas youth deal with the situation via parents, school authorities, or by themselves. Reassuringly, there were a few examples given of youth running their own anti-bullying programmes to both raise awareness, and to provide support.