Project Rockit: Tackling The Issue Of Cyber Bullying And Teens

The internet can be a scary place. Even scarier if you let your imagine conjure up all the things your kids could be getting up to (or getting exposed to) the minute they go online.

Unfortunately, these concerns aren’t unfounded. With more than one in three young Australians having experienced cyber threats online, it’s little wonder cyber bulling is considered a serious problem nation-wide, particularly among young people.

So how can we educate young Australians on how to navigate the darker side of the online world?

It’s a question ‘Australia’s youth-driven movement against bullying’, Project Rockit, faces every day, and has done since its inception in 2006.

Since then, the organisation claims to have visited over 150,000 young people at their schools discussing issues such as bullying (particularly online) as well as issues such as fitting in, being different, social labels, empathy, cultural background and gender and identity.

“The bulk of our work is running interactive workshops in schools. Basically, we send presenters into both primary and secondary schools, where they run workshops talking about bullying in a credible way young people actually engage with,” Caitlin Wood, Project Rockit’s head of programs, told The Huffington Post Australia.

“We find students actually want to talk about this stuff in school and talk about social labels and talk about it in a real way and, through that, connect with their peers as well. When it comes to cyber bullying and hate online — as well as the rise of social media, with new platforms being developed all the time — they are just surrounded.”

According to Wood, while there is an increasing awareness surrounding the issue of cyber bullying, it is also a problem that’s on the rise, particularly in regional areas.

“People are more aware of cyber bullying. People see it and they identify it,” Wood said. “But where it used to be one in six young Australians reported incidents of online bullying, it’s now one in three. To read more click here.

Could fining parents of bullies stop bullying?

bully-at-schoolInstead of enjoying the last days of their midyear break, thousands of kids are dreading the start of Term 3. These are the kids who face daily bullying at school, on public transport and online as reported by Carol Markie-Dadds.

They are threatened, teased, excluded and humiliated. They get sworn at, stolen from, pushed and shoved, and beaten.

And it’s not just face-to-face. A recent Triple P survey of more than 2,350 Queensland mums and dads revealed 43 per cent knew their kids had been bullied in the past six months. Many said that included cyber-bullying.

Their children had received a barrage of sexually explicit images and text. Their social media photos were doctored and circulated to cause maximum humiliation. Their sexuality had been questioned. Rumours went viral.

The scourge of bullying around the world has prompted authorities in the US state of Wisconsin to take a new approach. They have started fining the bully’s parents.

Shawano city council’s plan to curb bullying and harassment gives parents 90 days to intervene. If there’s no change, they are fined $366. A second offence costs the parents $700.

Shawano’s police chief Mark Kohl has told media they would target serious bullying that takes a clear toll on the victim such as physical, verbal or written intimidation, threats and emotional abuse.

“If it happens on school property, they have their own policies and procedures that we don’t enforce and we don’t get involved with,” Mr Kohl said. “This is basically [for] off the school grounds, outside of school hours.”

In Queensland, we are taking a completely different approach to bullying to the US by providing free Triple P parenting support to all parents and carers across the state.

The two-year program, funded by the state government, includes free seminars, one-on-one consultations and an online course.

It doesn’t tell parents what to do but gives them tips and strategies for raising happy, resilient kids who understand that violence and hurtful behaviour are ineffective and unacceptable.

This sort of population-based approach not only reduces children’s behavioural problems but also increases parents’ confidence. They are less stressed and provide better role modelling.

The aim is to spark change across the community, rather than target individuals. After all, parenting is hard enough without police intervention. To read more click here.

UFU ‘encouraged’ to co-operate with bullying inquiry

firefighters union victoriaThe Andrews government has “encouraged” the United Firefighters Union to drop its stance on directing members to not co-operate with a Human Rights Commission review into bullying and harassment at the state’s firefighting organisations as reported by

A spokeswoman for Emergency Services Minister James Merlino said: “The government encourages all staff, career and volunteer firefighters to participate” in the Victorian Equal ­Opportunity and Human Rights Commission review.

The UFU this week issued a directive attacking the VEOHRC investigation as politicised, saying any findings would fail to distinguish between the behaviour of unionised paid staff and volunteers. “The fact that it includes volunteers is a concern in itself, as essentially any findings of ­volunteers’ conduct will not be distinguished and therefore there cannot be any independent or ­accurate findings through this ­review,’’ UFU boss Peter Marshall said in a memo.

“The UFU does not accept this review is inde­pendent or a genuine attempt by the fire services to investigate these matters which were raised in a general manner by the fire services review report in March this year.

“We are also greatly concerned that there does not appear to be any controls or protections in place to ensure full and frank reporting and validation of the outcomes. For all these reasons, the UFU is strongly of the view that it is not in members’ interest to ­participate …

“Instead, the UFU engaged an independent tertiary institution to undertake a review to ensure all employees have an opportunity to participate in a genuine and independent review.”

Victorian Human Rights Commissioner Kristen Hilton said she hoped the union would reconsider. “The ­review is critical in ensuring a safe and respectful workplace free of incidents of bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment,’’ she said. “The review depends on co-operation of all people that work in the CFA (Country Fire Authority) and MFB (Metropolitan Fire Brigade). We want to provide people with a safe and confidential place to tell their stories, positive and negative.”

The government ­engaged the commission to investigate the CFA and MMB after its review by former Tasmanian Labor minister David O’Byrne found a poor culture, bullying and a lack of gender diversity. To read more click here.

Cyberbullying – setting out to become a cyber troll

Expressing a view or an opinion on social media sites can be empowering but when does it go too far and progress into cyber bullying?

Many would say it oversteps the mark as soon as it becomes personal , or in any way harmful or likely to cause offence.

In many cases, is it just clueless communication using a bad choice of words that turned out for the worst?

Are cyber bullies even aware their behaviour is inappropriate?

Cyber bullying is an easier way to bully than school yard bullying or workplace bullying and it’s certainly more time effective. Then there is the endless possibility of bullying several people at once, killing several birds with one stone so to speak.

In the past we have seen children in the school yard shouting “fight, fight, fight” in an enthusiastic manner we now have a situation of “like, like, like”.

Do people set out to become cyber trolls or did all those ‘likes’ make them think they have clout and their behaviour is somehow valid?

Reporting the abuse on social media sites instead of ‘liking’ may be one of the best ways we can teach appropriate behaviour in an online environment.

At The National No 2 Bullying Conference held last month, Children’s eSafety Commissioner Alistair MacGibbon spoke on how his office aims to protect children from cyber bullying and create a generational shift toward more respectful and responsible behaviour online.

After his Keynote Presentation we asked Alistair to elaborate on a “sense of cilvilness” as mentioned in his presentation.

Alistair said “If we view the Internet as a public place, or a series of public places there are acceptable standards of behaviour for how one behaves in each place.

We see the Internet as no different and children should be offered the same level of protection than a public place. There is a rule of civil society and law” he said.

Alistair MacGibbon has held the role of The Children’s e-Safety Commissioner since July 2015 and has more than 15 years’ experience in the field of online safety and security.

To view the interview click on the video to press play.

Eddie McGuire An ‘Old Style Bully’, Fairfax Boss Says

bully-eddie-mcguireFairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood has added his voice to the growing number of high-profile Australians calling on the AFL to censure Eddie McGuire for “joking” that journalist Caroline Wilson should be drowned.

McGuire, who has been engulfed in a media storm since the story broke on Sunday, was today condemned by AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan for the comments, but has so far dodged punishment.

The Collingwood president offered a non-apology of sorts for what Wilson has called “sexist nonsense”, with McGuire saying his words were intended as banter and not meant to offend anyone.

Hywood, who is boss of Fairfax where Wilson is employed at The Age, said McGuire’s apology was not good enough.

“The comments were infuriating and appalling,” Hywood said in a statement on Monday night. “Eddie McGuire … just doesn’t seem to get it.”

Hywood said it was repeat behaviour by McGuire, who has previously been attacked for claims of racism and homophobia and has a long history of gaffes.

“It is old style bullying, intimidation and physical threats and when challenged they are dressed up as a misunderstanding and just a bit of fun,” Hywood said.

“It just isn’t acceptable. McGuire has undermined the AFL’s best efforts to expose the insidious impact of domestic violence in our community.”

He called on Collingwood “to act if it is serious about its culture”.

Hywood joins former Australian of the Year Rosie Batty, deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek, media personalities Meshel Laurie and Jessica Rowe, Wilson herself, and a host of other well known Aussies who have slammed McGuire for the comments. To read more click here.

Safe Schools debate cold shoulders parents

imagesA sexual-health academic whose research helped inform Safe Schools has dismissed parental concerns over its content, blaming a “hate campaign” by The Aus­tralian for controversy around the program as reported by Rebecca Urban.

As La Trobe University grapples with restoring the reputation of the program, emeritus professor Anne Mitchell has defended Safe Schools Coalition Victoria co-founder Roz Ward, who returned to work on Monday following a brief suspension, claiming her Marxist links were “an absolute gift” to detractors.

At a Safe Schools event at Melbourne’s RMIT university a fortnight ago, the retired academic was billed to speak on her research, but spent significant time attacking those who criticised the program for its promotion of gender ideology and sexualised content.

“These are the strategies that are effective all the time,” Professor Mitchell said, discussing a slide titled “The anatomy of an Oz Hate Campaign” attributed to a 2014 report by journalism academ­ics Andrew Dodd and ­Matthew Ricketson, both former journalists at The Australian.

“It gets to the anti-communist rhetoric; Roz Ward was a gift to that, an absolute gift. They played that mercilessly,” she said. According to a leaked recording from the event, Professor Mitchell criticised the “depravity narrative” of the purported hate campaign, pointing to articles that revealed resources about penis tucking and breast binding — practices adopted by some transgender people — were being made available to students.

“You know what’s going to happen to the world if that goes on, especially in primary schools,” she said, prompting laughter from the audience. “Distortion is just so common in those articles; children as young as five may be taught that gender is not fixed or may be taught about homosexual sex.

“Deliberate distortion that frightens people.” To read more click here.

ReachOut Launches Online Service For Parents

teenage helpline for cyber bullyingPeer pressure, cyber bullying, sexting and social media use — it’s no secret being a teenager in Australia today is vastly different to past generations — which hardly makes the job of parenting an easy one.

In an effort to encourage more effective communication between parents and young people, youth mental health organisation ReachOut have launched a new digital service that provides advice and information for Australian parents.

“Parenting teenagers is as complex as ever but we know communication is absolutely key in any relationship,” Jono Nicholas, CEO of ReachOut told The Huffington Post Australia.

“We often talk about this being the first generation of parents who’ve had to deal with issues like their kids’ social media use, cyberbullying and when their kids should get their first mobile phone,” Nicholas said.

Teens today haven’t known a world without a mobile phone which poses a challenge for parents when trying to understand the things they might be going through.

The free service offers practical, evidence-based support based on research the organisation has carried out.

It found the top concerns for parents when it comes to their teens include; communicating with their teenager; peer pressure; study stress; anxiety; drugs and social media use.

“Today’s parents are incredibly time-poor and like the idea that they can access a web-based service that’s based on Australian evidence,” Nicholas said.

A key feature of the service is the peer-to-peer support forum which allows parents to anonymously share their experiences.

“Although parents reported a range of concerns relating to their teenagers, such as school and study stress, bullying, and drugs and alcohol, their biggest concern was how to communicate with their child about these issues.”

“Parents reported that it can be hard to know how to broach an issue with a young person, and to know when is the right time to do that,” Nicholas said.

Parents are encouraged to provide feedback on the site, which will also help to forecast the type of content made available including videos from child psychologists and pathways to more intensive support within the community. To read more click here.

For more information visit ReachOut.com/Parents

Bullying conviction under WHS laws a salutary warning to businesses

An upset blue collar worker is burying his face in his hands

Last weeks criminal conviction of an employer for the persistent and serious bullying of an apprentice represents a stark warning for employers, according to partner with MinterEllison, Harriet Eager as reported by AAL.

Wayne Allan Dennert was fined $12,500 by Geelong Magistrates Court under workplace health and safety (WHS) laws for bullying by him and other employees of an apprentice who suffered anxiety and depression as a result of his subjection to physical, verbal and psychological abuse over a period of two years.

In the case, a building apprentice was forced to drink methylated spirits, had hot drill bits held to his skin and sandpaper scraped over his face in repeated cases of work-place bullying ‘encouraged’ by his boss.

The apprentice began work at Geelong-based construction company Quality Carpentry and Building Maintenance, owned by Wayne Allan Dennert, at the age of 16, The Age reported.

For more than two years he suffered verbal, physical and psychological bullying at the hands of his employer.

A number of instances of bullying ‘actively participated’ in by Mr Dennert included putting a live mouse down the teenager’s shirt and spraying liquid nails in his hair.

In another instance, Mr Dennert took the apprentices phone and posted sexually explicit comments to a female friend’s Facebook page, the publication reported.

Mr Dennert pleaded guilty in the Geelong Magistrates Court on Friday to workplace safety violations and was fined $12,500.

The case was unusual in that the employer was convicted under the workplace health and safety regime rather than the Fair Work Commission’s anti-bullying jurisdiction.

“While we’re seeing more successful applications in the anti-bullying jurisdiction of the Fair Work Commission, it’s unusual for a prosecution under WHS laws for bullying,” said Eager.

“This conviction is one of only a handful of criminal convictions in Australia under WHS laws for bullying in the workplace.”

The fact this case was unexpectedly prosecuted under WHS laws should serve as a reminder to employers that the consequences of bullying in the workplace can be extremely serious. In this case, bullying included ripping the apprentice’s shorts, holding a rag soaked in methylated spirits over his mouth and applying hot drill bits to his skin, along with derogatory name-calling.

“This case confirms that WHS regulators will prosecute businesses and potentially individuals for bullying in the workplace,” said Eager, “particularly where a business has developed a culture where bullying is tolerated. And it shows that courts will convict.

“Officers who do not exercise due diligence to ensure that their business complies with its WHS obligations face a maximum fine of up to $600,000 and/or up to five years in jail in jurisdictions with harmonised regimes. Workers can also be fined up to $300,000 and/or imprisoned for up to five years.”

Eager added that employers can be on their guard against workplace bullying by treating it like any other WHS risk.

“A good starting point to demonstrate that your business is taking steps to ensure the health and safety of its workers and others, ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’, is being able to show that you have a bullying policy that has been communicated to staff, that you are training them that bullying is unacceptable, that you provide a mechanism for staff to raise concerns about bullying and that you have a process for investigating bullying complaints.” To read more click here.

Partnership to educate young workers and employers about workplace bullying

bully zero australia no 2 bullyingIn an effort to stop bullying in Victorian workplaces, WorkSafe Victoria has partnered with two organisations devoted to promoting awareness and prevent workplace bullying as reported by OHS News.

Bully Zero Australia and Brodie’s Law Foundation will each provide a range of education and training sessions to young workers aged 16 to 24 and their employers across Victoria.

WorkSafe’s Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams said she is pleased with the partnership.

“Bullying is a significant issue in Victorian workplaces,” said Ms. Williams. “Of more than 26,000 injury claims in Victoria last year, 3087 were mental injury claims. And of these, almost 1,300 mention bullying behavior as a cause.

“These figures are likely to be very conservative because, in many cases, bullied workers simply quit their jobs, while others don’t complain for fear of losing their job.

“People need to speak up if they are being bullied or if they see it happening. Our partnership with the Bully Zero Australia Foundation and the Brodie’s Law Foundation will help drive home our message that bullying can never be tolerated.”

Oscar Yildiz, Bully Zero Australia Foundation chief executive says he is positive that the partnership will allow them to reach out to a wider audience.

“Bullying can have devastating consequences and it is important to identify bullying victims, support them and help them take appropriate action,” he said.

“Workplaces should empower, educate and equip their staff with the necessary skills to respond to bullying.

“This partnership will help us deliver effective preventable programs to limit the pain and suffering that so many experience on a daily basis.”

Ms. Williams said it is important to educate people to reduce workplace bullying.

“Employers need to make sure their employees understand what it – and isn’t – workplace bullying,” she said.

“They must encourage healthy conversations about the issue, encourage the reporting of bullying behavior, and then deal with it quickly and sensitively.”

The Brodie Law Foundation was established by Damian and Rae Panlock in memory of their daughter, Brodie, who took her own life in September 2006 after being bullied at work. The Brodie Law started in June 2011, which made serious bullying a crime punishable by up to ten years’ imprisonment.

As recent exhibitor at the 2016 No 2 Bullying Conference Bully Zero Australia aim to provide genuine and enduring care for bullying victims and their families with a goal to identify and empower bullying victims, to support and stand side by side with them, their families and friends in taking action and creating permanent positive change.
To read more about the partnership CLICK HERE.

NZ Govt acts to tackle rising rates of cyberbullying

Cyber-Bullying nzA generation of young New Zealanders face serious mental health risks from an alarming rise in cyberbullying.

The warning comes from academics, educationalists and the Justice Minister.

The unchecked use of digital media has been linked to a rise in depression, high levels of anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

Though research is just starting to emerge, studies show correlations between cyberbullying, low self-esteem and depression.

“They’re the neglected generation I would say,” said Victoria University Professor Vanessa Green.

“We just got caught up in the importance of improving the technology for the sake of making it faster and better and quicker and everything else that it can do and I think we just missed the boat on the social side. Completely.”

Today the New Zealand Herald and Bay of Plenty Times begin a week-long series on the impact of cyberbullying, examining the extent of online harassment.

Justice Minister Amy Adams, who has just overseen the introduction of a tough new law to stamp out cyberbullying, said it was critical to highlight the severity of the issue, because it was more damaging and extensive than what was widely understood.

“As a mother, I’m really anxious that young people particularly don’t understand the viral nature, the permanence, the speed of dissemination and the damage of online communication, and I worry deeply about how it will affect people not only now but [in] their future careers and life.”

Ms Adams said the digital footprint was a lasting impression and many people did not understand the long-term impact of putting nasty or potentially criminal posts online. “It just amazes me what people think is okay to put out on social media or through internet communications.

Teenagers cyber bullying their peers are taking a “no holds barred” approach, with some of their obtained comments so bad “they make your hair stand on end”, a Rotorua coroner says.

Dr Wallace Bain, who played a major role in bringing about the Harmful Digital Communications Act, says while the response to cyber bullying has improved, the bullying itself is still a significant problem, particularly among youth.

“The devotion kids have to social media these days is astounding. Increasingly we are seeing people say, do and write things they would never do to another person’s face.

“Even if you delete it, it stays online forever – they often don’t think about that when sending a message they will later come to regret.”

Dr Bain said the level of abuse was becoming more violent, graphic and disturbing.

“These young people are becoming more and more desensitised and won’t hold anything back. Social media enables young people to feel like somebody when in the real world they feel like a nobody, it becomes a matter of ego.

He said cyber bullying was more common in youth because the frontal cortex of their brains had not fully developed.

“It is that section of the brain that assesses risk. When it is not fully developed, people are less likely to consider the consequences of their words or actions.” To read more click here.