According to the headspace data, 70 per cent of young people with high and very high rates of psychological distress also said they had experienced cyber-bullying.
According to the headspace data, 70 per cent of young people with high and very high rates of psychological distress also said they had experienced cyber-bullying. Luka Kauzlaric

More than half of our kids experience cyber-bullying

NEW data from headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation's 2018 survey has revealed 53 per cent of young Australians have experienced cyber-bullying.

Seventy per cent of young people with high and very high rates of psychological distress also said they had experienced cyber-bullying.

Headspace CEO Jason Trethowan said this revealed a strong link between the event or events and the young person's emotional state.

"These findings are deeply concerning and highlight the serious impact cyberbullying can have on a young person's mental health,” Mr Trethowan said.

"Social media has become a big part of life for young people and we're encouraging parents to be aware of its impacts and what to look out for when it comes to cyber-bullying so support can be provided.”

Ann Gallagher, a mum from the headspace Family and Friends Reference Group, experienced first-hand the impacts of cyber-bullying and the challenges that young people, parents and schools have in responding to these experiences.

"My daughter was cyber-bullied by a former friendship group at her school when she identified the relationships as unhealthy for her, and tried to amicably break away from them,” Ms Gallagher said.

"The bullying took place in a number of online forums and platforms, and very quickly got out of hand.

"The cyber-bullying had a significant impact on my daughter's mental health and her ability to attend school.

"We had to work really hard for months with the school and police to find an outcome that kept her safe and enabled her time and space to recover.

"Fortunately, my daughter opened up to me about the experience quite early on so I could be there for her and work with the school to try and help, but I know this isn't always the case.

"I would encourage parents to be aware of what goes on so they can be there for their kids.”

Nick Duigan, the senior clinical advisor at headspace, said there were some warning signs parents and guardians could be on the lookout for.

"Quite often a young person might be unwilling to open up and tell a parent or teacher about what's going on for fear of the situation getting worse,” Mr Duigan said.

"If you notice things like appearing upset after using the internet or a mobile phone, changes in how they're feeling such as loneliness or distress or, a decline in schoolwork, these can all indicate signs of mental ill-health that may be related to a type of bullying.

"We encourage anyone looking after a young person to get informed about how to support your young person to use the internet safely, and also to notice any changes in behaviour and try to open up a dialogue and understand what might be happening”.

Along with the release of the survey results, headspace has provided six key steps for parents and guardians to follow when talking to a young person about cyber-bullying:

1. Listen calmly to what your young person wants to say and make sure you get the full story.

2. Reassure your young person that they are not to blame and ask open and empathetic questions to find out more details.

3. Ask your young person what they want to do and what they want you to do.

4. Discuss some sensible strategies to handle the bullying with your young person.

5. Contact the school and stay in touch with them.

6. Check in regularly with your young person.