Texting, sexting and social networking among Australian youth and the need for cyber safety education

Year: 2009

Author: McLoughlin, Catherine, Burgess, Jill

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Digital tools and social networking sites provide scope for a range of forms of cyber expression and social interaction. The prevalence of negative behaviours such as cyberbullying has increased over the past few years, as adolescents take advantage of the anonymity in cyberspace to victimise, marginalise, ridicule and threaten their victims. Cyberbullying, otherwise known as e-bullying, electronic bullying, mobile bullying or online bullying is now a recognised problem in Australian schools and cases have been reported in the USA, Canada and the UK. This paper explores the uptake of social networking in the lives of young people, reviews the literature on studies conducted in Australia on e-bullying behaviour and considers the challenges to schools in developing e-safety measures and programs. Data from a number of Australian studies is presented to illustrate the extent and prevalence of the problem. The findings indicate that instant messaging, mobile phones and social networking sites are contexts where cyberbullying occurs, and that girls are more likely to view cyber aggression more seriously than boys. The literature surveyed show that schools need to develop knowledge of e-safety strategies among staff and students. Recommendations are made on strategies for educating youth in media literacy skills and e-safety in order to curb the incidence and effects of cyberbullying.