A PSYCHOLOGIST has warned parents to monitor their children's internet use in light of statistics which highlight a national problem with cyber bullying on social networking sites.
Australia rated fifth in the world for cyber bullying but worst for cyber bullying on social networking sites in a survey by marketing research firm Ipsos.
Thirteen per cent of online Australian parents surveyed in an international poll said that their children had experienced cyber bullying, and nine out of 10 reported that it occurred on social networking sites.
Doctor Rhiannon Penny, a psychologist with Family Challenge at Mooloolaba, said children should speak to their parents if they were being bullied online, but not all were willing to do so.
"They've got to let Mum and Dad know. And parents should be allowed to look at Facebook accounts and online chats," she said.
Dr Penny said cyber bullying could lead to anxiety, mood disorders, and interrupted school attendance.
"It's not uncommon, especially with teenagers, because they are the ones generally on Facebook and all the other sites like that," she said. "It can have devastating effects in terms of anxiety, just like normal bullying."
Dr Penny said cyber bullying could be more painful for the victims than face-to-face bullying because it could occur around the clock. She said bullies also tended to display more bravado online and would "say things that they would never say face to face".
She advised cyber bullying victims to "take a Facebook holiday" and stay off social networking sites until the behaviour ceased.
A former bullying victim said cyber bullying had compounded a problem which had begun in the school grounds.
The woman, now in her 20s, said she had been harassed and threatened by bullies who interrupted her online chats with friends on MSN.
The bullying lasted about four years and inexplicably finished at the end of Year 8.
Although she feared for her safety at the time, she said it had made her a stronger and more empathetic person.
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