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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stark contrast: 2 social-media stories out of Oz

Livewire, a social network site for youth with disabilities and chronic illnesses, just launched in Australia to help them have a more normal sense of friendship (less fixated on their disabilities) than they may be able to have offline, Reuters reports. Aiming to serve the some 450,000 Australians aged 10-21 "currently living with a serious illness, chronic health condition or disability ... Livewire recruits members from referrals through it's parent organization, the Starlight Children's Foundation, and through hospitals that treat disabilities or chronic cases." Meanwhile, the Sydney Morning Herald quotes a Melbourne youth worker as saying cyberbullying in Australia had reached "epidemic proportions." He called on the government to change laws to give police more powers and "said in recent weeks a 17-year-old high school student jumped to his death off the West Gate Bridge after reading death threats online." It's possible we need to focus more on civil behavior and citizenship education offline and early detection online than on crime and prosecution. At least in the US, police have always had the authority to deal with physical threats in any venue.

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Blogger Rose said...

Hi Anne,

The police in Oz do have enforcement powers in relation to threats carried out over the telco system (ie, over the internet, mobile phones). They're set out in the Commonwealth Criminal Code in s474. There are also various other civil and criminal provisions which might also apply, depending on the circumstances. To my knowledge they haven't yet been tested, despite being in place for some four years. I think you're right that focusing on teaching positive online behaviours, and equipping responsible adults to recognise and act on the early warning signs, are crtical.

Of course, this doesn't take away from the fact of the tragedy experienced by those young people mentioned in the Age/SMH article, or by the people who care for them. :(

12:16 AM  

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