The Coalition Online Safety Working Group visited Bendigo on Thursday to hear from primary and secondary students, education and sports officials, and representatives from the justice system.
Nationals Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie said technology was evolving rapidly and it was essential that effective policy was developed to keep young people safe when online.
“The Loddon Mallee Cyber Safety Project found 55 per cent of year 9 and 10 students reported being harassed online in the preceding month,” she said.
“This statistic highlights, to some extent, the problems around social media in our communities.”
Ms McKenzie said it was time to get serious about cyber safety.
“It was interesting that one of the students we spoke to did make a comment about the differences between regional and urban experiences,” she said. “In rural areas we’re a lot more connected, everyone knows everyone and that might not be the case in wider Melbourne.
“So, as one of the girls said, if something does go wrong, like cyber bullying, then it’s more likely that you know the person and therefore it has a real-life impact.”
Ms McKenzie spoke on the issue of cyber safety in Parliament last week, detailing the plight of a 15-year-old Shepparton girl who dropped out of school because she was bullied online.
“This young woman started a petition in her local area calling for increased powers for police and schools to deal with such problems,” she said.
“Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has tasked the Working Group to develop possible policy solutions to better assist parents, carers, teachers and young people address online risks.”
Ms McKenzie said it was important to work out how to best tackle the issue: “What we’re hearing is that it’s a whole-of-society problem.’’