Cyber Bullying: Death of Charlotte Dawson

Charlotte Dawson: Community Brave, Angels Goal Charlette was a well-known model and TV presenter in Australia and New Zealand. She was a judge on Australia’s Next Top Model (seasons 3 to 8). Charlotte also worked on reality show Contender and travel and lifestyle program Getaway. She lost her long battle with depression and committed suicide on February 22nd. She had been the victim of long term cyber bullying and harassment by internet trolls. Charlotte Dawson took a tough stance against cyber bullies. She had a high profile role with the Community Brave Foundation “a Collaborative Community Project to eradicate Online Bullying, Homophobia, Transphobia and Youth Suicide.” Dawson was also National Ambassador for Australian anti bullying organisation Angels Goal. In 2012 she was hospitalised ‘in a fragile state’ after being subjected to a vicious and sustained online bullying campaign.

The Blight of Online Bullying

In a recent cyber bullying survey from FindLaw.com, just over 8% (nearly 1 in 12) parents reported that their children had experienced online bullying. Stephanie Rahlfs, an attorney-editor at FindLaw.com said, “by some reports, bullying – and especially cyberbullying – has reached epidemic proportions among schoolchildren.”
“While our survey indicates that about one in twelve parents report their child being victimized by cyberbullying, the survey likely understates the true incidence of cyberbullying. Many parents may not be aware that their children are receiving threatening or harassing messages, or that reputation-damaging posts about their children are being made on social media sites. Many children may be unwilling or reluctant to share that information with their parents. However, laws on bullying and cyberbullying may offer protections that authorize schools and other authorities, including law enforcement, to take appropriate action to stop the cyberbullying when it occurs.”

Cyber bullying statistics from the NoBullying.com website highlight further concerns:

  • 25 percent of teenagers report that they have experienced repeated bullying via their cell phone or on the internet.
  • Over half (52 percent) of young people report being cyber bullied.
  • Embarrassing or damaging photographs taken without the knowledge or consent of the subject has been reported by 11 percent of adolescents and teens.
  • Of the young people who reported cyber bullying incidents against them, one-third (33 percent) of them reported that their bullies issued online threats.
  • Often, both bullies and cyber bullies turn to hate speech to victimize their target. One-tenth of all middle school and high school students have been on the receiving end of ‘hate terms’ hurled against them.
  • Over half (55 percent) of all teens who use social media have witnessed outright bullying via that medium.
  • An astounding 95 percent of teens who witnessed bullying on social media report that others, like them, have ignored the behaviour.

NoBullying.com recently published “Six Unforgettable Cyberbullying cases”, with moving accounts of the stories of Ryan Halligan, Megan Meier, Jessica Logan, Hope Witsell, Tyler Clementi and Amanda Todd. Vicious online bullying drove these six teenagers to suicide.

Can cyber bullying be stopped?

Exposure to cyber bullying is widespread and people are dying. In Italy, MPs have called for action following the recent suicide of a 14-year-old girl. Governments, parents, educators, legislators and internet companies need to work harder to eradicate cyber bullying.
Signe Whitson writing at the Huffington Post provides 10 Strategies for Stopping Cyberbullying. They are good affirmative steps to take if you find yourself on the receiving end of the trolls.
Police training is an area that needs more focus. There is often confusion about how existing laws apply. New Zealand’s Harmful Digital Communications Bill had its first reading in December 2013 and will report in June 2014. It is highly relevant given Charlotte Dawson’s death.
A farewell to Charlotte Dawson took place in Sydney on Friday February 28th. Those attending included model Megan Gale, Rupert Murdoch‘s son Lachlan Murdoch and his wife Sarah Murdoch and former Labor Minister Graham Richardson.
Posted March 2, 2014 by Steve Nimmons

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