Cyber bullying. We know it exists. Many of us understand its significance and recognise it as a substantial issue within society. For the victims of cyber bullying, the consequences are varying and quite significant. But, the age old question — how do we stop it? How can we make a positive difference in regards to an issue that seems so prolific and unmanageable?
JCU’s Dr Margaret Carter doesn’t profess to have the answer to this burning question, but she does hold the key to unlocking the solution. And — she’s passionate about sharing it around.
A lot of information is available about cyber bullying in schools and in the workplace but there’s a gigantic black hole of information and research when it comes to supporting students and staff who are studying and working within higher education. Social media has become one of the world’s major sources of social interaction and is widely utilised in higher education teaching and learning. Potential dangers can occur in relation to reputation, career prospects and a sense of self-worth due to this rise in digital communication.
That’s where Margaret comes in. Margaret is a Senior Lecturer in Education and is the project lead investigator for the Preventing Cyber Bullying project. A collaborative project that is special in many ways.
“This project is unique as it focuses on providing well researched resources to educate higher education students and staff about cyber bullying and staying safe online,” Margaret says. “The platform is designed to transform people’s mindsets and teach them about the impact of unsafe and unethical behaviour. And, particularly, raise awareness around what cyber bullying actually is.”
There are quite significant repercussions for each individual who is touched by cyber bullying. “Students are so concerned and anxious about what is happening, they become disengaged from their learning,” Margaret says. “I’ve talked to a number of students over the years who are uncertain if someone in their class is the person who’s instigated the bullying. It’s 24/7 exposure. We know from the Australian Psychological Society Stress and Wellbeing survey in 2015, almost one in four report being heavy social media users, with a greater percentage of those being constantly connected. Reconciling this is quite a worry as an educator.”
“My goal, and the goal of the community of students, staff and alumni who help to coordinate this project is to educate our students and in the process teach them about professional identity. We want to help them develop graduate attributes as they are learning so that when they are a part of the workforce they are very aware of safe engagement and professionalism online.”
Margaret’s magic lies not only in her deep passion for raising awareness of preventing cyber bullying and its effects, but in her ability to promote sustainable collaboration.
“Our project is cross-institutional,” she says. “It involves students studying different degrees collaborating to present a project that they believe will add value to the site. It links in with the different services that the university provides, and involves staff from various areas within the university. We have student buy in, we have industry input, and we are relevant as the students inform content and site design. That’s the key to raising the awareness”.
The Australian Counselling Association has recognised the Preventing Cyber Bullying project as one of many invaluable resources for the online world. As well as this, the Australian Government has acknowledged the project as a partner with its Stay Smart Online initiative.
In our efforts to prevent cyber bullying communication is the key. Collaboration is paramount. Raising awareness through education is the solution.
Feature image: Shutterstock