Sixty percent of young Australians with disability reported online abuse

Posted 3 weeks ago by Georgie Waters
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Online bullying can affect anyone, but recent data suggests that young people with disability are at greater risk of online abuse than peers without disability. [Source: Shutterstock]
Online bullying can affect anyone, but recent data suggests that young people with disability are at greater risk of online abuse than peers without disability. [Source: Shutterstock]

Could an increase in cyberbullying put your child at risk?

Content warning: the following article contains references to suicide

Key points

  • Compared to the national average of 45 percent of young people reporting online abuse, up to 60 percent of young people with disability have been bullied online, according to data from the eSafety Commissioner website
  • Talking to a trusted adult and teaching young people with disability about when they need help are good management strategies when facing bullying
  • Dolly’s Dream Foundation is holding a fundraising event called ‘Do it For Dolly’ to raise money to help implement anti-bullying programs across Australia

Online abuse has risen by 40 percent as per the latest data from the eSafety Commissioner

Approximately 60 percent of young Australians with disability reported that they have been ‘treated in a hurtful or nasty way in the past 12 months,’ whereas the national average sits around 45 percent of young people, as per recent data from the eSafety Commissioner website.

The eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant asked for parents and carers to understand that while there can be dangers associated with online interactions, the internet can provide an outlet for young people with disability to express themselves. 

“As a society, we need to become much better at protecting and amplifying the online voices of people with disability, actively providing them with opportunities to share their ideas, aspirations and creativity,” said Inman Grant. 

The Minister for Communications, the Hon Michelle Rowland MP, also established her thoughts regarding the percentage of young people with disability who are victims of online abuse. 

“This research highlights the importance of the internet in providing a place for young people with disability to connect, but also the harms that may come with it. What is clear is that the level of online harm experienced by young people with disability is unacceptable,” said Minister Rowland.

In January 2024, Acting eSafety Commissioner Kathryn King established the importance of parents understanding how open discussions about possible cyberbullying and how to act online can be beneficial.

“[…] It’s helpful to sit down with your children to reassure them they can always come to you if they see anything online that makes them feel uncomfortable — but to also remind them to treat others with respect,” said King.

Preventative measures against online abuse of young people with disability can include teaching them how to use the internet safely and ensuring they have trusted adults they can talk to if they’re concerned about what’s happening. 

If you have a child with disability who is being abused online, knowing how to discuss this in the right way is important. Let them know that they’ve done the right thing by telling you and that you can both work together to find a solution. This may involve reporting the abuse on the online platform or to the eSafety Commissioner where further action can be taken. 

One family knows the effects of bullying all too well. At age 14, Dolly Everett died by suicide after being the victim of cyberbullying. Her parents Tick and Kate established the Dolly’s Dream Foundation to change ‘the culture of bullying by addressing the impact of bullying, anxiety, depression and youth suicide, through education and direct support to young people and families.’

On May 10, 2024, the Dolly’s Dream Foundation is holding the annual Do it For Dolly Day to raise funds to deliver programs involving bullying prevention and online safety — to get involved, head to the official fundraising page

Dolly’s Dream has partnered with the Telethon Kids Institute to create an Australian app to help families discuss the importance of being safe on the internet as well as providing updated information. Beacon is free to access and is available via the App Store and Google Play. 

Bullying does not always happen online, with the schoolyard providing a place for bullying to occur. Children with disability are up to three times more likely to be bullied than peers without disability. 

Some factors that can make a child more prone to bullying include being clumsy, having speech difficulties or having trouble with social skills.

To learn more about the difficulties for children facing bullying and other challenges that children with disability may have, read this article: Why children with autism spectrum disorder are being excluded from schools

In addition to assisting young people when they report online bullying, there are also other ways you can provide support to people with disability. 

If you’d like to help others with disability or health conditions, but you’re not sure where to start, there are multiple ways you can show support and make a difference in the lives of others. 

While people with disability are capable of fundraising and advocating for themselves, getting a community involved can make a big difference in the overall impact.

You can make a difference in the lives of people with disability through multiple avenues including fundraising, volunteering and being a disability advocate. Read more about how you can make a difference in this article: How can I make a difference in the lives of people with disability?

 

Have you been bullied and live with disability? How did you overcome the bullying?

Let the team at Talking Disability know on social media. 

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Why children with autism spectrum disorder are being excluded from schools

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