New data released today from headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation reveals more than half of young Australians (53%) have experienced cyberbullying , indicating bullying in a digital context is prevalent among young people.
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Seventy per cent of young people with high and very high rates of psychological distress also said they’ve experienced cyberbullying, revealing a strong link between the event or events and the young person’s emotional state.
“These findings are deeply concerning and highlight the serious impact cyberbullying can have on a young person’s mental health”, said Jason Trethowan, headspace CEO.
“Social media has become a big part of life for young people and we’re encouraging parents to be aware of its impacts and what to look out for when it comes to cyberbullying so support can be provided.”
Ann Gallagher, a mum from the headspace Family and Friends Reference Group experienced firsthand the impacts of cyberbullying, and the challenges that young people, parents and schools have in responding to these experiences.
“My daughter was cyberbullied by a former friendship group at her school when she identified the relationships as unhealthy for her, and tried to amicably break away from them. The bullying took place in a number of online forums and platforms, and very quickly got out of hand.
“The cyberbullying had a significant impact on my daughter’s mental health and her ability to attend school. We had to work really hard for months with the school and police to find an outcome that kept her safe and enabled her time and space to recover.
“Fortunately, my daughter opened up to me about the experience quite early on so I could be there for her and work with the school to try and help, but I know this isn’t always the case. I would encourage parents to be aware of what goes on so they can be there for their kids.” Ann said.
Nick Duigan, Senior Clinical Advisor at headspace said there are some warning signs for which parents and guardians can be aware.
“Quite often a young person might be unwilling to open up and tell a parent or teacher about what’s going on for fear of the situation getting worse.
“If you notice things like; appearing upset after using the internet or a mobile phone, changes in how they’re feeling such as loneliness or distress or, a decline in school work – these can all indicate signs of mental ill-health that may be related to a type of bullying.
“We encourage anyone looking after a young person to get informed about how to support your young person to use the internet safely, and also to notice any changes in behaviour and try to open up a dialogue and understand what might be happening,” said Nick.
headspace has provided six key steps for parents and guardians to follow when talking to a young person about cyberbullying:
• Listen calmly to what your young person wants to say and make sure you get the full story.
• Reassure your young person that they are not to blame and ask open and empathetic questions to