Parental involvement in preventing and responding to cyberbullying

CFCA Paper No. 4 – May 2012

Introduction

The role that parents play in the cyber-safety education of their children cannot be understated. (Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety [JSCCS], 2011a, p. 277)

Internet use has become virtually universal among Australian adolescents. In the 12 months prior to April 2009, 96% of 12-14 year olds used the Internet at home or school and use increases with age (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], 2009). Alongside this is a growing recognition that Australia's long-term social and economic prosperity will increasingly rely on professionals with high quality skills in the use of technology, as outlined in the National Digital Economy Strategy (Department of Broadband, Communications & the Digital Economy, 2011).1 As such, technological competence will be crucial for the children and adolescents of today, as the next generation of professionals.

Young people are exposed to an increasingly open and collaborative online social culture, which allows them to access information and maintain friendships and relationships with family. There are also substantial educational and social benefits associated with engagement in online activities, such as creative content production, dissemination and consumption (Collin, Rahilly, Richardson, & Third, 2011). Young people are, however, at a dynamic stage of development in which risk-taking behaviours and immature decision making capacities can lead to negative outcomes (Viner, 2005). This is evident in the growing recognition and consequences of cyberbullying.

Parents' involvement in safe use of technology starts from a child's first use, and they are a critical part of ensuring their teenage children's responsible and safe use of online services as part of a whole-of-community response to cyberbullying. This paper outlines definitions and statistics related to cyberbullying, differences between cyberbullying and offline bullying, and parents' roles and involvement in preventing and responding to cyberbullying incidents. The aim of the paper is to inform practitioners and other professionals of ways to help parents clarify their roles, and provide them with the tools to help their teenage children engage in responsible online behaviour.

Footnote

1 For more information see National Digital Economy Strategy <www.nbn.gov.au/nbn-benefits/national-digital-economy-strategy/>