are we doing enough to fix australia’s cyberbullying laws?
Television personality Charlotte Dawson, whose death by suicide in late-February caused a wave of shock through the Australian public, is not the first person to fall victim to cyberbullying – and she probably won’t be the last. But it was her high-profile battle with online trolls and her subsequent death that brought the issue of cyberbullying into our collective conscience.
As many as one in three young people report having been personally threatened via social networking sites, indicating just how serious the issue has become.
There has been a lot of pressure on the Australian government and its laws relating to cyberbullying of late, but CEO of the Bully Zero Australia Foundation, Oscar Yildiz, says the Government is working together with various organisations to ensure that bullying is regarded a crime in this country.
‘The Crimes Act in Victoria now reflects community views [and] bullying is a crime under stalking,’ he said.
Having said that, the Australian government and state governments need to enforce this law and take action against this growing crime.
Oscar believes that ‘there does need to be a national law that defines what bullying is, what its intent [is] and what the consequences, sanctions and penalties are.’
He also points out that there are many families in Australia that have no opportunity to seek justice because there is no law protecting them from bullying.
Charlotte’s close friends have created an online petition called to bring on ‘Charlotte’s Law’ in hope of enacting stronger laws against cyberbullying. In the description of their change.org petition they state:
‘We ask that the Australian and State Governments introduce cyber-bullying laws to tackle serious online abuse – not just for kids, but for adults too. The police also need the resources to be able to enforce them, and act against those who relentlessly harass others online.’
But is this too little, too late? How many people will have to suffer before our government takes this seriously?
As a society, we need to realise that while children are affected by online bullying, adults are too. And most of them suffer in silence. The word ‘bully’ needs to be taken seriously and not just defined as a nasty kid in the schoolyard. We need to be educated on the laws against cyberbullying and know just how to recognise it and deal with it when we come across it.
In 2012, Charlotte went public with her struggle with depression and the attacks against her on social media. Something should have been done back in 2012; it has taken a death for people to take notice.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Oscar says that ‘…people’s values, perception[s] and the culture around bullying [are] changing. People are now conscious of what bullying is and there are only small amounts that do not respect technology or the consequences of bullying.’
To sign the petition for Charlotte’s Law, click here.
For more information on the Bully Zero Australia Foundation, click here.