Cyber bullying is the use of the Internet and related technologies such as mobile phones, to harm other people, in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner. ?Cyber bullying is a growing problem as it is out of the jurisdiction of most schools and generally done behind closed doors. Many teenagers who are faced with a cyber bully do not report the bullying, but instead dwell on the subject, causing them to become depressed, anxious and more times than one suicidal. In recent years, cyber bullying has emerged, increasing the amount of bullies and victims.
An example of how cyber bullying and how it can effect an individual comes from the Sydney Morning Herald, it explains why Megan Meier committed suicide and how Lori Drew was charged over the incident. The Crimes Act 1900 has many sections, but the main section that deals with cyber bullying is in section 60E which makes it an offence for a person to assault, stalk, harass or intimidate anyone, this includes school staff or students while attending school, but it does not cover bullying outside of school premises.
This Acts effectiveness does not protect victims from cyber bullying, especially on school premises, making it not very effective when protecting individual’s rights against cyber bullying. Restorative Justice Programs are based on a shared ownership, or a peer approach to resolve problems that arise, even those in schools. Restorative Justice Programs take the form of conferences that involve a wide range of people. The incidents are generally discussed and a way of resolving them are figured out with the perpetrators and victims present.
This program is extremely effective as it lowers the amount of children and teenagers that go into the legal system, it is educative rather than punitive, and costs a lot less than a court appearance would cost solving the same/similar matter. Duty of care for schools is anything that happens inside their gates is there jurisdiction, but the extent of a schools duty of care to protect students from cyber bullying is unclear.
Cyber bullying that occurs outside of school hours through non-school equipment is particularly problematic for schools. The effectiveness of duty of care for schools is quite ineffective, as it does not clearly state the extent of a schools authority when it comes to cyber bullying. Law reform will become a major topic in coming years if the rate of cyber bullying keeps increasing at the rate it is. An extract from Campbell, Marilyn A (2005) Cyber Bullying: An old problem in a new guise? Australian Journal of Guidance and
Counselling, informs us that 75% of 7-16 year olds in the United Kingdom use the internet to socialize on and off. In the same extract a report from a Brisbane school, identified 11% of 120 year 8 students identified themselves as cyber bullies and nearly 14% as targets. Only a small group was examined at this Brisbane school, but the results were shocking. Australia could implement a new law reform where schools will be able to have a clear knowledge of their jurisdiction when it comes to cyber bullying.
A new law, which was implemented in New York State, now allows families, communities, law enforcement and schools prevent harassment, bullying (including cyber bullying) and discrimination. ?Another law that Australia should take on board in the role of law reform is the Malicious Communications Act 1988 in the United Kingdom. This act prohibits the sending of a letter, electronic communication or other article that is indecent or grossly offensive, threatening, or false and sent for the purpose of causing distress or anxiety. Finally, another UK law that Australia should take on board is the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. This act prohibits the harassment and conduct causing another person to fear that violence will be used against him/her. This also protects individuals against cyber bullying. A law reform that would be most helpful in Australia would be the United Kingdom’s Malicious Communications Act 1988. This act would allow law enforcement to take control of cyber bullies everywhere, cutting down the amount of cyber bully caused suicides.
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