A recent report commissioned by the Australian Media Authority found that one in five 14-15 year olds have experienced bullying over the internet.
With the rise in use of the internet and social websites such as Facebook and Twitter, this report showed that these young people are also increasingly engaging in risky behaviour that may not otherwise be available to them, such as ‘‘friending’’ strangers and talking with people they have never met.
Under the veil of anonymity, people are increasingly using the internet to bully, scam and intimidate others.
Gossip, personal information and rumours can be spread with the click of a button and with seemingly little consequence for the perpetrator.
Many believe this type of behaviour is only really a concern for teenagers. However, social media sites are having ever increasing consequences for adults as well.
A recent study by the internet security company AVG found eight per cent of Australian workers felt information found via the internet had been used against them, or a colleague, in the workplace.
Embarrassing photos or videos, unwanted romantic advances, gossip and derogatory comments made over the internet are more easily spread and talked about using the internet. Workers' social personalities, activities and movements outside of work hours are readily available for co-workers and managers to view and scrutinise.
This is particularly concerning for workers given the fact that once these things are out there, they can be seen by a large volume of people and it is almost impossible to remove them completely.
This not only has an effect on a worker's reputation and working relationships, but can also cause significant damage to the emotional and psychological wellbeing of those involved.
Even celebrities and high profile figures are not free from instances of cyberbullying with twitter ‘‘trolls’’ using anonymity to send hate-filled, threatening and derogatory taunts.
Even the Prime Minister has not been spared this new intimidation tactic, receiving malicious and obscene tweets following the death of her father. And, more recently NRL star Robbie Farah receiving offensive tweets regarding his late mother.
However, the question remains – what can be done to prevent cyberbullying in general and limit it's affects on workers and workplaces?
Whilst it is important that all levels of Government continue to work on workplace legislation to respond to these changes, it is also up to employers and managers to make sure that all employees are aware of their responsibilities and that a culture of trust, respect and tolerance is developed within the workplace.
Ryan Park is the State Member for Keira and Shadow Minister for Roads.