What is the Commission doing about cyberbullying and bystanders?

The Commission currently has ‘tackling violence, harassment and bullying’ as one of its priority themes. The Commission believes that this is an issue that profoundly affects the lives of thousands of people living in Australia.

With the proliferation of new communications technologies and the dramatic increase in use of the internet including social networking sites, new arenas have been created in which harassment and bullying can take place. The Commission is taking steps to identify and address policy issues and solutions in addition to investigating and conciliating complaints.

The Commission is undertaking and planning a range of activities to address violence, harassment and bullying. For example, in August 2010 the Commission hosted a roundtable with key non- government organisations, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, and bullying experts to explore the development of effective strategies to tackle cyberbullying.

In 2011 the Commission hosted a vodcast with UN youth champion Monique Coleman and Samah Hadid Australian UN Youth Representative which covered important topics such as bullying and self esteem. The Commission will develop a new initiative to empower young people to stand up to bullying, with an emphasis on the role of bystanders to take safe steps to respond to cyberbullying. Details of the Commission’s activities are in the Commission Plan 2010-2012, Our agenda, and the 2009-2010 Annual Report. These are available on our website.

Why are bystanders important?

The Commission is interested in identifying safe and appropriate ways to support people who want to be defenders of, or stand up for, victims of violence, harassment and bullying. This is important as some people feel uncomfortable witnessing bullying but may be unsure what to do to stop bullying happening.

Active bystanders can play an important role in stopping bullying. This is because:

  • bystanders are often present online when bullying occurs
  • bullying behaviour is reinforced where people watch or are present but do nothing
  • when bystanders intervene, bullying is more likely to stop.[26]

Bullying is everyone’s problem. If bystanders take safe and appropriate action to stop bullying, this allows all of us to be part of the solution to bullying.

It's up to everyone to create a safe environment and we can all help. Motivating bystanders to act when they witness bullying is now being promoted as a response, whether in schools, workplaces or more broadly in the community.

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[26] Australian Education Authorities, Bullying No Way, Spotlight on bystander behaviour. At http://www.bullyingnoway.com.au/talkout/spotlight/bystandermain.shtml (viewed 15 January 2010)