Worrying new research shows Australian high schools are dealing with an average of 22 cyber-bullying incidents each year.
School principals and teachers are so swamped with cyber-bullying complaints they are losing hours of valuable teaching time each week.
The Federal Government is set to escalate its response to the growing problem, by tabling legislation to create a Children’s e-Safety Commissioner to Parliament before the end of the year.
Parliamentary Secretary for Communications Paul Fletcher has expressed concerns cyber-bullying is creating “a substantial new workload for principals and teachers”.
He said the problem was so bad, principals and teachers often spent Mondays intervening in a social media stoush that had erupted between students over the weekend.
“The physical safety of children in school grounds is traditionally the responsibility of schools, but what has happened is children are now communicating very extensively online and on social media, and those engagements within the school boundaries have gone well beyond school boundaries, and schools have been faced with a very big new responsibility,” Mr Fletcher said.
“Clearly, there is only a finite amount of time in the day; the time spent responding to cyber-bullying is time principals and teachers are not able to spend on the core business of educating kids.”
Matthew Keeley, director of the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre, who conducted research for the Federal Government, said about 463,000 Australian children were victims of cyber-bullying last year, and three-quarters of those were aged between 10 and 15. Mr Keeley said the majority of Australian schools reported dealing with a cyber- bullying case last year, and on average, high schools grappled with 22 incidents of cyber-bullying last year alone, with one in three of those cases being so serious they were referred to police.
“We are hearing that teachers are spending inordinate amounts of time managing these issues,” he said.
He said principals and teachers had to inform and
involve parents in the issue, counsel and mediate students, issue warnings about inappropriate online behaviour, facilitate class discussions, discipline students and liaise with police.