Cyberbullying raises concerns

WESTERN Sydney mum Jean [not her real name], recently discovered her 12-year-old daughter's identity had been stolen and used to create an online account.

That account, on a smartphone messaging application, was then used to bully another student.

"From the time my daughter got her iPhone we did everything we thought we could and it still wasn't enough," she said.

There is a lot of information on fighting cyberbullying, but some parents say the tips from police and experts aren't always practical.

"Kids work out how to hide things," Jean said.

National anti-bullying campaigner Brett Murray said parents had a responsibility to keep up with the technology and the social media applications their children use.

"Parents and teachers hide behind the excuse that they are not digital natives [people born after the technology became widespread]," Mr Murray said.

He said parents should keep children off social media for as long as possible and monitor them closely when they do get access.

"When they are ready, be their first online friend and make sure you have access to all of their accounts and passwords," he said.

"Ensure any internet enabled device is used in a public space in the home, never alone in the bedroom with the door shut."

Jean said she believed the only solution was to take her daughter's phone away.

"But it's not fair: she did nothing wrong and I don't want to exclude her," she said.

"No matter how careful some parents are, it's useless if other parents are doing nothing."

A spokesman for the Australian Federal Police said it could be an offence to use a carriage service — internet or sms messages — to menace, harass or offend someone.

State and federal police may apply their own jurisdictional legislation or federal legislation when conducting investigations into cyberbullying.

■At what age should children get a mobile phone and internet access? Let us know on stmarysstar.com.au

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