New figures from the first year schools have been required to report the “misuse of technology” show an alarming trend in cyberbullying and sexting.
In 2015 alone, there were 152 reports involving inappropriate online behaviour, while reports of drug incidents in schools grew from 68 in 2012 to 299 last year.
In one shocking incident revealed through the reports, students indecently assaulted a classmate in the toilets so they could film the attack and share the footage.
Chris Presland, NSW Secondary Principals Council president, told The Educator that his school, St Clair High School, introduced a ‘digital citizenship charter’ three years ago, which has improved reporting practices and awareness around cyber issues.
“My school’s charter involves safe ways for students to engage online and another which is about students’ responsibilities and what they shouldn’t do online,” he said.
“We get outside speakers in to participate in our workshops. There are quite a few State and Federal organisations that provide workshops. Police youth liaison officers also come in and give talks to our different age groups.”
Renowned child psychologist, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, warned cyberbullying had reached a critical point and was now a bigger issue than children doing drugs.
“There is a parallel (with drug abuse) – the difference is it’s the parents giving the kids the mobile phones,” Dr Carr-Gregg told The Daily Telegraph.
He added that 20% of young people had reported they had been affected by cyberbullying.
Studies have also shown a disturbing trend towards the practice of ‘sexting’ in schools.
Last year, a study of Australian teenagers by the CSIRO found that nearly half of all senior secondary students had received a sexually-explicit image via text message.
The study, published in the journal Sexual Health, found while a quarter of the Year 10, 11 and 12 students surveyed had sent a sexually explicit photo of themselves to someone else, about 42% had received a sexually explicit image.
A NSW Education Department spokesman said the appropriate use of technology, including mobile devices, was a growing concern in the community and that schools are no different.
“The decision to report on technology as a separate area enables the department to better identify and monitor specific issues. Any allegation of student behaviour that may indicate harmful sexualised behaviour is taken seriously,” the spokesman said.
“It is reported to police and child protection services immediately and appropriate support is provided to affected students.”