ONLINE spats between school children are spiralling out of control, leading to hate messages, violence and even death threats.
Experts say 10 per cent of all children now claim to have been cyber-bullied, The Daily Telegraph reported.
The enraged father of one teenage schoolgirl became so incensed by comments he believed a boy had made about his daughter on a social networking site that he accosted him in the street and threatened to “slit his throat”.
The man approached the Year 8 boy as he walked to a bus stop on the state’s mid-north coast and pushed and threatened him before boarding the bus, where he issued further death threats to the boy and other students.
In another disturbing case, a mum went to a school in western NSW and urged her Year 10 daughter to assault another girl after an exchange on a social networking site.
Both girls were suspended, police were called and the mum was banned from entering the school under the Inclosed Lands Act.
In the Tuggerah Lakes area on the NSW central coast, comments on a social networking site led to a Year 8 female being assaulted by another Year 8 girl.
One of the students, who sustained swelling to her forehead and complained of feeling dizzy and nauseous, was taken to hospital. The other girl injured her hand.
Schools increasingly are asking police to investigate serious student online bullying and have shored up cyber safety programs in a bid to head off more trouble.
The NSW Department of Education and Communities has enlisted international expert Professor Donna Cross to help advise students and families about online behaviour.
Professor Cross, from Edith Cowan University in Western Australia, specialises in preventing and responding to aggression. She said about 10 per cent of children now reported being cyber-bullied.
Children who cyber-bullied also were 18 times more likely to bully others in the real world, Professor Cross said.
She said bullies often had higher levels of depression than the victims: “They’re also more likely to be engaging in problem behaviour – unsafe sexual behaviours, smoking, using drugs, graffiti, stealing and truanting.”
Bullying peaks in children at about Year 5 and again at about Year 7 or Year 8.
The first peak coincides with children discovering the power of the peer group and creating their own social pecking order. The second peak occurs when children move from primary school to secondary school.
Researchers have found cyber-bullied kids suffer poor academic achievement, anxiety, depression, poorer physical health, higher school absenteeism, increased loneliness and low self-esteem.
The Department of Education said Facebook could not be accessed on school computers. Its Digital Citizenship website, which deals with bullying and other issues, has received thousands of hits from all over the world.