Education programs tackle cyber bullies

AS well as calls for legislative changes in regard to cybersafety and bullying, there has also been talk about rigorous education on the subject.

A federal government discussion paper titled Enhancing Online Safety flags the creation of federal cyberbullying offences for adults and minors.

National Centre Against Bullying chairman Alastair Nicholson has even called for jail sentences for bullying.

Existing parent and school resources include the Life Education program, the government's cyber education program cyber[smart:) and School Liaison Police officers.

The Life Education program was expanded to include cybersafety in 2013. The mobile drug and health education van, which visits schools with giraffe Healthy Harold, partnered with computer company McAfee to add cybersafety to its program.

Its bCyberwise program uses animation, vox pops, scenarios, discussion and problem solving.

The government's education program cyber[smart:) is run by the Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and was created in 2009.

Senior cyber[smart:) communications advisor Gretchen Martins said the focus was on education.

"We are not into scare tactics," she said. "We say 'these are the facts on cybersafety; on social media, on sexting . . . now it's up to you what you make of it'," she said.

"There are negatives but 90 per cent of the time the internet and social media has made our life so much better - it's about knowing the issues you might encounter online and how to handle things."

Ms Martins said the program comprised information, resources and games targeted at under-12s, under-18s and parents of children of all ages.

"We held focus groups and looked at what issues they are having," she said. "It might be how to start a conversation when it's really awkward, or signs to look for when teens might be having problems."

She said cyber[smart:) also had resources for schools, including interactive programs such as Cybersmart Hero and Cybersmart Detectives.

Another resource for schools are the state's 40 School Liaison Police officers. The area from Lake Illawarra to Ulladulla is covered by Senior Constable Kerryn Mura, who works with high school students to reduce youth crime, violence and anti-social behaviour and to break down barriers between school students and police.

Senior Constable Mura said she had not seen a change in young people overall.

"The biggest thing that I have seen change though is the social media thing," she said. "When I started it was not as popular as it is now. Each year there are more forms of social media that pose some threat or danger."

Senior Constable Mura explains cyber harassment laws and the Young Offenders Act to students, and the impact of charges on their future lives.

Schools sometimes need her support for specific cases.

"Most of the time schools will deal with things first," she said. "If the behaviour continues then I come in."

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■ See for Ness Love-Monk's brave effort to see a positive in her daughter's death. In next week's edition US expert Justin Patchin, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, outlines the situation in the US and future threats.