Bullying Goes Online

Reporter: Jackie Quist

One feud Today Tonight investigated began as alleged schoolyard bullying and has now entered the courts – invention orders have been issued against two teenage girls and their mothers.
One of the girls was just 13 when the police came knocking and delivered the order, forbidding her to go near her former school friend for 12 months. The girls have to stay at least 200 metres away from each other.

If they do not, they may have to pay a $24,000 fine or spend two years in jail.
In another case, 13-year-old Aaron Altmann has been accused of standing over a teacher and threatening him in the playground. Aaron has denied the accusation, but admits he swore at the teacher and was now attending a behavioural course. He said he wanted another chance.

"I can't really go back to school because they've banned me from going to school, pretty much," Aaron said. "I'm allowed to go back to school but none of them will teach me. "I don't think I should be expelled for the reason that I swore at him."
Adolescent psychologist Dr Michael Carr Gregg said bullying was a major problem in Australia.
"There is preliminary evidence to suggest that it is in fact increasing in Australia," Dr Michael said.

"Certainly the statistics tell us that one in six kids are reporting being bullied weekly."
Bullying and harassment have been around for a long time, but that abuse has now entered a new domain and become electronic.

He a new Girlfriend magazine survey of more than 13,000 readers showed that 42 per cent of respondents had been "cyber-bullied".

"Bullying and harassment have been around for a long time," Dr Michael said.
"The only new part is a lot of it tends to be electronic as opposed to face to face," he said. At 14, Jaime Barlsey fell victim to cyber bullying. Her pursuers were a group of classmates who used technology to make Jaime's life a living hell.
"It moved to MSN, it was stuff like threats like 'I'm coming to your house I'll do this to your family'," Jaime said.
"Every day it was happening, every day or, yeah, four out of five days at school and then on the weekend as well so, yeah, I ended up not going on the internet anymore."

But Jaime said the bullying continued via sms and phone.
Jaime said bullies encouraged people she did not even know to prank call her. "Just more threats yeah threatening messages and name calling," she said.

Queensland Institute of Technology child psychologist Dr Marilyn Campbell said cyber bullying was a growing problem.

She said 15 to 20 per cent of students experience some kind of cyber bullying.

The Institute has competed a study into what Dr Campbell claimed has become a global problem.

"We actually think that the consequences of cyber bullying could be even worse than normal schoolyard bullying, mainly because it is the power of the written word we can read over and over," Dr Campbell said.

The consequences of cyber bullying can be fatal.

Just last month, the day before school started back, New Zealand schoolgirl Alex Teka took her own life.
She was just 12 years old and for eight months had been the target of bullying by text message. Spokesperson for the National Coalition Against Bullying, Helen McGrath, said it was a lot harder to physically attack a student than it was to click a mouse.

She said it was also a lot harder to say something very hurtful and watch the distress in that persons eyes than it was just to press send and not even think about the consequences.

"In some rare cases there's other suicidal thinking or actual attempted suicide thankfully that doesn't happen all that often but a lot of kids get very close to it," Dr McGrath said.

Jaime's mother Kelly said at one point the family printed out a whole conversation and considered taking it to the police because it threatened the student's seven-year-old sister. Kelly said when the cyber bullying against Jaime escalated to violence there was no choice but to send her daughter to another school.
"She even had physical marks on her where she'd been kicked and you know cans of coke thrown at her," Kelly said.
Jamie said she was now very happy at a school that tackled bullying head on.

"When I was getting bullied I felt really upset and helpless and in a way depressed that I couldn't do anything about it and now at my new school where there are really good anti-bullying policies and really great people to talk to to do something about it if you were getting bullied it's just really different and really good," Jaime said.