Online child encounters – is it time to hit the panic button?

Posted in Cyberbullying and Online Safety by ginas876 on April 19, 2010

As more children and teens are reported as being involved in dangerous encounters with adults they meet online comes news that Facebook’ is refusing to add a child safety button on their site.

The button, according to The Times article, “Police attack Facebook in dispute over child safety”, enables users to report concerns instantly to police or charities while online. Known as the Child Exploitation and Online Protection button (CEOP), it’s already been added to Bebo and MSN sites.

Facebook says there have been no instances where children have been lured into a dangerous situation because of their site and their reporting mechanism provides enough protection. But surely, it wouldn’t hurt to add a button to see if it makes a difference?

It may have prevented the abuse of a child like Alicia Kozakiewicz , who at 13 talked to her online friend everyday. Little did she know that this friend was actually a 38-year-old man. Scott W. Tyree lured Alicia to a meeting spot where he then picked her up in his car and drove her to his home where he tortured and sexually assaulted her for 4 days.  She was rescued and over the years has become a powerful advocate for online safety campaigns.

The Canadians have taken a different approach. They’ve asked kids to come up with their own public service announcement to teach others about online safety. What better way to teach kids about the dangers of cyberspace than to give them the power to contribute to a solution? Sponsored by Microsoft, these short videos were created by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada as part of the CanTech Digital Arts Contest.

Just like the public service announcements created by kids in Canada, the child safety button on Facebook is really about giving the power back to the user – in this case kids. And there can’t be any harm in that.


O’Neill, S. (2010), ‘Police attack Facebook in dispute over child safety’, The Times. Accessed at

Park, M. (2010) ‘Internet horror tale teaches lesson in safety: State girl, 13, agreed to meet acquaintance only to be assaulted.’ Accessed at


Cyberbullying: The dark side of being connected

Posted in Cyberbullying and Online Safety by ginas876 on March 30, 2010

There’s never a moment in our lives where we can’t connect with someone in an instant. The Internet, and namely, Web 2.0, has made it possible for us to keep our friends, family, and even strangers, abreast of what’s happening in our lives at the click of a button. Every day we text, tweet, update our status on Facebook, and email to keep connected.

However there’s a dark side to social media, especially for adolescents and teenagers.  Cyberbullying is increasingly becoming a problem, particularly among teenagers and adolescents.

Cyberbullying is defined as being a “form of aggression” that occurs through computers via email, instant messaging, social network sites, or mobile phones via text messaging [‘School Bullying Among Adolescents in the United States: Physical, Verbal, Relational and Cyber’, Journal of Adolescent Health, Wang 2009].

There have been many reports of cyberbullying over the last few years, resulting in teen suicides.

Take the 2006 case of 13-year-old schoolgirl Megan Meir.

Megan committed suicide after being told by her “friend” Josh, that he didn’t want to be friends with her after establishing a friendship and ongoing correspondence via MySpace. Little did she know that Josh was in fact her neighbour, Lori Drew, the mother of a teenage daughter who was harassing Megan online to find out what she thought about her own daughter.

Just recently, there was yet another report in The Sydney Morning Herald, of a schoolgirl who committed suicide after intense bullying by her schoolmates over three months.

According to the article, ‘Girl who killed herself experienced unrelenting bullying’, published on 30 March, 15-year-old Phoebe Prince was repeatedly bullied at South Hadley High School, Northampton, Massachusetts. This behaviour followed her outside the schoolyard, to also include “vicious mobile phone text messages.”

According to a Newspoll survey, one in five young people in Australia are victims of cyberbullies.

So what can we do to prevent this? And who should be held to account – parents or the school? This is currently being debated but it’s clear that both need to intervene as soon as it’s brought to their attention.

Dr Marilyn Campbell, School of Learning and Professional Studies, says they’ve learnt a lot about bullying over the last 20 years, and the same principles can be applied to cyberbullying.

These include:

  • Awareness raising: Educating teachers, parents, and students on cyberbullying and its consequences
  • Whole School Policies: Schools promote that they’re ‘bully-free zones’ and outline consequences of cyberbullies
  • Supervision: Encouraging parents to supervise their kids while using the computer at home, perhaps even keeping the computer in a common area in the home rather than the kid’s bedroom
  • Programs: Teaching net-iquette to schoolkids and actively encouraging schoolkids to speak out against bullying.

    The more teachers and parents band together to raise awareness of cyberbullying and its consequences, the closer we will be to resolving the issue.


    Campbell, M. A. (2005). Cyber bullying: An old problem in a new guise? Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 15, 68–76.

    Wang,J, Iannotti, R.J., and Nansel T.R., (2009), School bullying among adolescents in the United States: Physical, verbal, relational, and cyber, J Adolesc Health 45, pp. 368–375

    Williams, F (2010) Bullies without borders: Keyboards give cowards a launchpad for attacks, social trends reporter, Herald Sun, 24 February 2010. Accessed at:

    (2008) MySpace suicide: new law outlaws cyberbullying, The Sydney Morning Herald, AP, 1 July 2008. Accessed at: