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Monday, 3 June 2013
Page: 4870


Ms HALL (Shortland) (20:25): Cyberbullying is an extremely dangerous and hurtful form of bullying which has no boundaries and takes bullying to a new level. Cyberbullying is particularly harmful because it can reach anyone and a lot of people can take part in it. It is often done in secret, with the bully hiding who they are by creating false profiles or names, or sending anonymous messages. It is difficult to remove, as the previous speaker stated, as it is shared online and can be recorded and saved in many different places. It is hard for a person being bullied to accept if they use technology often. The content—photos, text or videos—can be shared with a lot of people, and this content may also be easy to find by searching on a web browser.

While cyberbullying is similar to face-to-face bullying, it really takes bullying to a new level. It can occur 24/7 and be difficult to escape. It is invasive, impacting on students' social worlds at school and at home, often online. It can have a large audience and is readily shared with groups or posted on public forums, and it is very, very difficult to delete. I am sure every member of this House has come across incidents where students in their electorate have been bullied on the net. The government has recognised the impact and dangers of cyberbullying and that is why the government has invested in the cybersafety plan to help schools and educators protect children from inappropriate material and contacts while online.

If you are a young person and you are being sent threatening emails, being teased or made fun of online, having rumours spread about you online, having unpleasant comments made about you, being sent unwanted messages, having somebody use your screen-name or being deliberately ignored or left out of things, these are the kind of activities that really impact on you. That is why we need to make sure that action is taken in this area.

I would like to recount the story of one young woman, a young girl attending one of the local high schools in my area, who received texts and messages on her Facebook page. These were very threatening. She was threatened with physical harm—not only within her school but, because of the nature of the Lake Macquarie, Newcastle and Hunter area, that threat and those comments that were made about her spread throughout the whole of the Hunter. They were then published on sites down on the Central Coast and this young woman, this young girl attending a local high school, was scared to leave her home. She was terrified—absolutely terrified. This is why cyberbullying is particularly dangerous, as it depersonalises the abuse and the abusers are not held to account. They can say whatever they like on social media and it is really hard to track them down and hold them accountable.

Leigh Sales, on 7.30,detailed the case of a young girl, Zara Nasr, who idolised the pop star Delta Goodrem. She was subjected to the most dreadful abuse on the internet. This is a problem facing our community as a whole. I hope that we all come together on this important issue. Cybersafety is a collective responsibility. It is the responsibility of government, schools and individuals. Parents should monitor very carefully their children's computer usage. Children should not be allowed to sit in their rooms, in front of their computers with no controls whatsoever. Controls on websites are very difficult to enforce because many of the websites are offshore. Many challenges need to be addressed if cyberbullying is to be stamped out and it can only happen if all sides of parliament— (Time expired)