Conference on cyberbullying

RECENTLY, Kiama mum Ness Love-Monk spoke publicly about her teenage daughter, Courtney Love, who ended her life after enduring bullying, including cyberbullying.

Ms Love-Monk's efforts to raise awareness come amid a push for stronger laws, including calls for jail time for bullies.

The National Centre Against Bullying (NCAB) will host a conference on bullying at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on August 6 and 7.

Speakers include Justin W. Patchin, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Centre and Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

The centre has been studying cyberbullying since 2002 and launched cyberbullying.us in 2005.

Prof Patchin, the author of five books on the topic, said cyberbullying was defined as: willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cellphones and other electronic devices.

He said while bullying and cyberbullying were often similar in terms of form and technique, the differences were such as to make the latter "even more devastating".

"First, victims often do not know who the bully is, or why they are being targeted," he said.

"The cyberbully can cloak his or her identity behind a computer or cellphone using anonymous email addresses or pseudonymous screen names.

"Second, the hurtful actions of a cyberbully are viral; that is, a large number of people (at school, in the neighbourhood, in the city, in the world) can be involved in a cyber-attack on a victim, or at least find out about the incident with a few keystrokes or clicks of the mouse. The perception, then, is that absolutely everyone knows about it.

"Third, it is often easier to be cruel using technology because cyberbullying can be done from a physically distant location, and the bully doesn't have to see the immediate response by the target. In fact, some teens simply might not recognise the serious harm they are causing because they are sheltered from the victim's response.

"Finally, while parents and teachers are doing a better job supervising youth at school and at home, many adults don't have the technological know-how to keep track of what teens are up to online. As a result, a victim's experience may be missed and a bully's actions may be left unchecked. Even if bullies are identified, many adults find themselves unprepared to adequately respond."

Prof Patchin said the centre tracked all new devices, applications and websites with potential to do harm. He said the latest social medium of concern was Yik Yak.

He said teens were signing up in droves for the the app, which he described as a location-based anonymous Twitter feed.

"The free app allows users to post anonymous comments that can be viewed by anyone who is within five miles of the person who posted it. Or at least the 500 who are the closest," he said.

"One can easily see the attraction for students in using this app: they can post nameless comments that others in their immediate vicinity can see.

"It is perfectly tailored for a school environment."

Visit kiamaindependent.com.au/story/2156053/grieving-mother-speaks-out-against-bullying/ to read Ness Love-Monk and Courtney Love's story.

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