Cyberbullying now top concern for parents

Media Release, 30 January 2017

Parents are far more concerned about cyberbullying and online safety than their child experimenting with drugs and alcohol, according to new Telstra research.

The findings come as Telstra joins youth-led movement against bullying, PROJECT ROCKIT, to launch an Australian-first digital classroom that empowers young people to take action on cyberbullying and online safety.

Telstra’s ‘Schoolyard to Screen’ study found two in five (40%) Australian parents ranked cyberbullying and bullying among their biggest worries as children head back to school - with one in five (20%) saying they are concerned their kids will be unsafe using the internet.

This compares to just 9% of parents who said they worried their child will consume alcohol or try smoking, and 15% of parents who were concerned their child will take drugs.

The research found that more than one in three (36%) Australian teenagers have personally experienced cyberbullying, with one in five (20%) stating the bullying occurred within the last month.

Head of the Telstra Foundation Jackie Coates said Telstra was proud to partner with ground-breaking anti-bullying crusaders PROJECT ROCKIT to help take their powerful and innovative approach online.

Designed by young people for young people, PROJECT ROCKIT Online is an immersive digital experience that engages secondary school students in years 7 to 9 in learning and understanding on the issues of bullying, cyber safety and leadership.

“As a mother of two, with my son starting secondary school this year, I know how significant the issues of cyber safety and cyberbullying are for Australian parents and teenagers,” Ms Coates said.

“Our research found that parents want more help dealing with these issues, with two in three (68%) saying more help is needed to educate and empower young people about cyberbullying.

“Telstra has long been a big fan of the impact PROJECT ROCKIT is having with their in-school workshops on cyberbullying. That’s why we provided a $400,000 social innovation grant to amplify their 10-years of experience and help take PROJECT ROCKIT online.”

PROJECT ROCKIT was launched in 2006 by Melbourne sisters Lucy and Rosie Thomas, who fresh out of high school saw how much bullying was robbing from their peers and decided to do something about it.

Co-founder and Co-CEO Rosie Thomas, said her young, dynamic team had delivered face-to-face workshops to over 200,000 students in more than 500 schools across the country.

“We’ve poured all of our passion and experience into PROJECT ROCKIT Online. We were driven to take our successful youth-led approach and program to a digital platform after seeing the difference we were making at each school we visited,” Rosie said.

“Through PROJECT ROCKIT Online, we can now reach young people and schools all over Australia. This is especially important in regional and remote areas where we see higher rates of mental health issues, as well as bullying,” Rosie said.

“There’s no preaching, lecturing or judging - PROJECT ROCKIT celebrates technology, creates real talk about the tough issues and works with young people to come up with safe and cool strategies. This new program is about empowering everyone to act.”

Following a 10-school pilot last year, an evaluation of PROJECT ROCKIT Online by Western Sydney University found that 96% of students felt that they could help to challenge bullying after completing the program.

PROJECT ROCKIT Online is now available for all Australian schools. Further details, including pricing, for educators is available at www.projectrockit.com.au/online.


Supporting quotes:

Julie Inman Grant, Australian eSafety Commissioner:
"The start of the school year is the perfect opportunity for us to talk with young people about cyberbullying and to take action together. The PROJECT ROCKIT philosophy is a powerful one-it takes just one person to step up to inspire others to do the same. To truly tackle cyberbullying and bring about a new era of online civility, we need to empower young people to build understanding, demonstrate empathy and show leadership. In short, we all need to understand that the process of 'upstanding' is truly outstanding!

PROJECT ROCKIT Online has been created by young people, for young people, and engages with teenagers in a way that is truly world-leading. I am so excited that Project Rockit! Online will help provide scale to this philosophy and can now reach students in urban, rural or remote areas across Australia with this engaging curriculum."

Pitsa Binnion, Principal of McKinnon Secondary College:
“Digital technology has changed the nature of bullying. For young people experiencing bullying today, it no longer ends when the school bell rings. With laptops, tablets and smartphones, young people are connected 24/7 and it can feel like there’s no escape. This program provides an opportunity to not only educate, but to empower young people about how to deal with cyberbullying and what it means to be a responsible digital citizen.”
 

PROJECT ROCKIT and Telstra’s top tips for parents:

  1. Grow your understanding of young people’s digital lives ahead of any trouble. The more you are aware of your child’s online world, the more likely they will feel comfortable talking to you, especially when they feel uncomfortable.
  2. Give realistic and safe advice. It is not helpful to tell young people to turn off their device when bullied online (they won't) or 'fight back' (this will make things worse). Instead we recommend sharing socially responsible strategies that you would actually be willing to use yourself.
  3. Work with the school. When bullying happens online, who’s responsible? Rather than seeking out someone to blame, it’s much more helpful to stay calm and work with the school to establish a clear response to incidents of (cyber)bullying that you can step through together.
  4. Look for allies. Helping your child to identify their own peer allies can be really important. Allies can provide emotional support when you’re not there, nurture new social connections or even be confident enough to stand up for your child in the heat of the moment.
  5. Empower the bystander. You can contribute to a better online world by encouraging your kids to support those targeted by bullying. Put your heads together ahead of time to come up with safe and socially credible ways to stand up or reach out to those who need help.