Senior Constable Matt Holden at Chifley Police District is appealing to residents to avoid heated arguments on Facebook and other social media platforms.
“The general message that I spread when I go to schools is to not to get involved in online arguments,” Sr Constable Holden said. “Just don’t get involved.
“A heated argument on Facebook never ends well.
“Just walk away and block people. If people won’t get a reaction, they will go away.”
A recent poll by The Australia Institute showed more than one-third of respondents had experienced one or more forms of online harassment and the majority of them were women and young people.
Sr Constable Holden, who is also the youth liaison officer, says he often hears about low-level bullying cases between school students and severe cases of bullying between adults.
“The most common incident of harassment among students is sharing intimate pictures,” he said.
The most common incident of harassment among students is sharing intimate pictures.Senior Constable Matt Holden
“Boyfriend and girlfriend exchange images and then they break-up, and the images get circulated to everyone.
“The other common incidents relate to constant name calling, bullying and occasionally people threaten to hurt someone.”
Sr Constable Holden says he has seen a rise in the number of school-related incidents in the past few years.
Sr Constable Holden said schools handle the matter themselves a lot of the time by involving parents or handing out suspensions.
“Most often the matter is resolved by speaking to both parties and telling them that’s enough,” he said.
“It works in nine out of 10 cases.”
Central West Police District crime manager Detective Inspector Bruce Grassick says harassment, intimidation and cyber bullying are all crimes and offenders can be prosecuted for committing them.
But he said reporting such incidents to police is rare.
Detective Inspector Grassick said police is providing education and training to school students about cyber bullying.
“Parents should also monitor children's online activity,” he advised.
Sr Constable Holden says before approaching police with a complaint related to cyber bulling or harassment, victims can take a series of steps.
“The most effective tool to prevent bullying is to block the person,” he said.
The most effective tool to prevent bullying is to block the person.Sr Constable Matt Holden
“Residents can approach social media sites like Facebook and Instagram to block the person and also the office of the esafety Commissioner depending on the severity of the situation.”
Sr Constable Holden said the esafety Commissioner has more staff to investigate online harassment and bullying.
“They have a channel of communication with Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms and they can get information to find about a person who is impersonating or concealing their identity,” he said.
“Local police can only interfere if the victim knows the identity of the accused.”
The study showed:
- People in regional areas are more likely to use Facebook (94 per cent vs 90 per cent)
- People in regional areas have more contacts on Instagram and Google+ while people in the capital cities have more friends on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Snapchat.
- People in regional areas spend more minutes per time on Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat