Partnership tackles cyberbullying

A new partnership between La Trobe’s School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, Uniting Vic Tas and VICSEG New Futures will address cyberbullying and adolescent family violence

The “Adolescent Family Violence and Cyberbullying Prevention” project aims to equip children and their families with the tools and resources to prevent cyberbullying.

This innovative project will combine the technological expertise of La Trobe cybersecurity and data science researchers with the specialist knowledge in child psychology, family violence, bullying, social inclusion, intersectionality and cultural safety from Uniting Vic Tas and VICSEG.

Professor Wenny Rahayu, Dean of the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematical Sciences said cyberbullying is a growing problem.

“Research from Australia’s eSafety Commissioner in 2021 showed that 44% of young people had a negative online experience and 15% had received online threats or abuse over a six-month period. Unfortunately, there has also been increase in adolescent domestic violence.”

“Many parents need advice about the best way to deal with cyberbullying, however, most of the existing research and resources are based on school yard bullying. This demonstrates the need for researchers with technical expertise because, these days, bullying does not necessarily occur in the playground. It is often happening online,” she says.

The project will focus on 10-12-year-old children in the Hume region. It will use holistic, school and community approaches to preventing adolescent violence in private, public and cyber spheres.

Dr ASM Kayes, Senior Lecturer in Cybersecurity said La Trobe’s research will combine data analytics with cyber security knowledge.

“In the first year of this project, we will review existing research and resources, and collect data and evidence from students, teachers, counsellors, and parents. This will help us identify if there is a correlation between adolescent domestic violence and cyberbullying.”

“We will also consider the issue of data privacy. We cannot always know what kids are doing online, and our framework will consider issues around privacy and parental supervision.”

“From these insights, we will develop a narrative framework that can help parents and family members dealing with cyberbullying.”

“In the second and third years of the project, we will work on the development of technology to support intervention in cyberbullying. For example, artificial intelligence (AI)-based tools and  apps that could help children identify cyberbullying,” Dr Kayes says.

Professor Rahayu adds that AI could play an important role in early intervention of cyberbullying.

“In this context, we see AI as a potential co-advisor, working alongside parents and teachers to help children identify cyberbullying. For example, AI may be able to provide an alert or prompt in the early stages of cyberbullying,” she says.

“We believe that the best way to monitor, detect, and eventually solve cyberbullying is through technological expertise. We hope to equip parents and teachers with effective mechanisms to help monitor and resolve bullying and domestic violence.”

Undertaken within Uniting’s Communities for Children Hume Program and supported by the Australian Government Department of Social Services, the project consortium is led by Dr Cirila (Lilac) Limpangog, Senior Project Manager and community development expert.

Image (L-R): Andrew Boyle - UVT CfC Hume, Amanda Exley - UVT, Mara Verdeflor - UVT CfC Hume, Caspar Zika - VICSEG, Prof. Wenny Rahayu - LTU, Jeanette Hourani - VICSEG, Dr Lilac Limpangog - UVT CfC Hume, and Dr ASM Kayes - LTU.