The Federal Government has announced a new pilot project aimed at curbing cyber bullying in Australian schools.
Education minister, Julia Gillard, said 150 schools will be involved in the $3 million project, to be carried out by the Alannah and Madeline Foundation (AMF).
The suicide of a 14 year-old girl in southern Victoria last month pushed the issue of cyber bullying into the spotlight when the child’s mother blamed the suicide on the Internet.
The case was the fourth suicide in six months among students from the same school.
The “deeply concerned” Rudd Government says the project will help confront safety issues in online communications, including social networking.
Communications minister, Stephen Conroy, has also recently announced a Youth Advisory Group to advise the Government on cyber bullying issues, made up of 305 youths. The group is part of the Rudd Government's $125.8 million cyber-safety plan, which includes the new Cybersmart Web site launched last month.
However, Queensland University of Technology cyber bullying expert, Dr Marilyn Campbell, previously told <i>Computerworld</i> that ACMA's site, aimed at “empowering Australian children to be smart online”, does not effectively address the issue of cyber bullying and that researchers were too slow to realise its consequences.
“Unfortunately the [government’s] solutions to cyber bullying are these incredibly simplistic technological solutions,” Campbell said.
“I’d like more research and more concentration on assisting bullies to change their behaviour rather than supporting victims.”
The pilot will run until 30 April 2010 and its outcomes, which will be assessed as part of an independent evaluation, will be taken into account in the Government’s review of the National Safe Schools Framework (NSSF).
Cyber bullying victims seeking help and support should contact:
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Kids Help Line: 1800 55 1800