ADULTS are just as likely to become victims of cyberbullying attacks as children, according to a USC professor.
ADULTS are just as likely to become victims of cyberbullying attacks as children, according to a USC professor. MachineHeadz

Adults just as likely to be cyberbullying victims

ADULTS are just as likely to become victims of cyberbullying attacks as children, according to a USC professor.

Cyberbullying specialist Dr Larisa McLoughlin says every year a new platform comes to the fore, and the effects can be catastrophic.

She said Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat were the obvious ones, but that it also extended to online forums and old-fashioned text messaging.

In her research with young people who've attempted suicide, she said Ask FM was a surprisingly popular site.

"It goes right across the board, seemingly every year there is a new app.

"Anonymous forums can be quite severe, their trolls are amongst the worst ones," Dr McLoughlin said.

"Cyberbullying can be just as damaging to adults if not worse. People can comment thinking it is just for fun and end up really hurting someone. If more people get onboard, it's a chain reaction."

She stressed it was important not to paint all bullies with the same brush and, in most cases, they had been victims themselves.

"They are rarely just a bully. Most have been victims themselves," she said.

"Most aren't horrible people. They might be doing horrible things but it is their way of coping and they need help."

Child Development lecturer at the University of South Australia, Dr Lesley-anne Ey, said bullying begins in early childhood.

"Children under the age of eight commonly confuse bullying behaviour with developmentally normal conflict and aggression," Dr Ey said.

"This suggests there's a need for education about bullying with this age group.

"Currently there is a lack of anti-bullying educational resources for young children, absent in the Australian curriculum."

Today, schools around the Sunshine Coast have embraced an anti-bullying campaign labelled the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence.

Queensland University of Technology professor Marilyn Campbell, however, argued anti-bullying days were "counter productive". She said knee-jerk reactions weren't helpful and the solution must be a long-term, multi-tiered approach.

"Bullying is a complex social relationship problem which is deeply embedded in our society. If there was a solution we would have found it by now," she said.

"Programs which work in primary schools are much less effective in secondary schools, whose students need a different approach. One day can highlight the issue but it won't solve the problem."



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