Cyber-bullying site not enough: expert
A Canberra academic has labelled the Federal Government's new anti-bullying website a ''Band-Aid solution'' and says a more proactive approach is needed to curb the rates of youth suicide.
The website was launched yesterday and coincided with the death of Melbourne schoolgirl Sheniz Erkan, who took her own life on Monday after falling prey to online bullies.
The Easy Guide to Socialising Online website offers advice about 26 social networking, gaming and search engine sites but Thomas Nielson from the University of Canberra said such sites only worked in conjunction with active engagement.
''They're good, but they're Band-Aid solutions at best,'' he said.
''The research is quite clear on what actually helps - that is to be proactive, to talk to kids and engage with them in class.''
Dr Nielson said teachers were not being given enough opportunity to engage with students on issues surrounding depression and bullying due to increasing pressure from the government to produce academic results.
''The real problem is nobody is talking to kids enough about what it is that makes life worth living,'' he said.
''The research clearly shows that what makes us happy the most is to have meaningful relationships. But how much of the national curriculum is geared towards that?''
A spokeswoman for the Youth Coalition of the ACT said the increased use of social media platforms such as Facebook had changed the scope of bullying.
''Young people may now be at risk of experiencing bullying in their homes via the internet when previously bullying occurred at school or in other environments,'' she said.
''Schools, families and the broader community all have a role in supporting and protecting young people by providing strategies to prevent bullying both at school or online.''
The spokeswoman said it was crucial that intervention and initiatives were based on sound evidence and acknowledged that online bullying was usually not an isolated incident.
''Youth workers and services in the ACT consistently report that mental health is one of the leading issues experienced by young people in the ACT,'' she said.
''Twenty-five per cent of all young people experience a mental health issue in any given year.
''Responses to cyber-bullying should focus on building resilience, protecting mental health and strengthening peer support networks.''
During 2010, the ACT Directorate of Education and Training community liaison officer received 48 complaints.
But a spokesman for the directorate said the figure referred to all bullying complaints, not just cyber-bullying incidents.
''It also includes a significant number of complaints that, after investigation, were found to have no basis,'' he said.
Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy spoke at the launch of the Government website yesterday, saying ''cyber-bullying is a serious matter''.
Aside from general safety tips, the website also gives advice on adjusting privacy settings.
The new easy guide website can be accessed by visiting dbcde.gov.au/easyguide and then clicking on the ''cyber safety help'' button. with AAP
Young people can also find help at: headspace - ACT 6201 5343; Kids Helpline - 1800 55 1800; and Lifeline - 13 11 14.