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Collier urges clamps on social media
Collier urges clamps on social media

Tens of thousands of WA students were "suffering in silence" because of cyber bullying and students should use popular social networking sites such as Facebook at school only under supervision, Education Minister Peter Collier said yesterday.

Mr Collier said social media had allowed for more sophisticated bullying among school children.

The Opposition has said Mr Collier's comments further highlight the need for a State law - mirroring Commonwealth cyber-bullying laws - to make it easier to prosecute those who harass others by phone or computer.

Mr Collier said students should be allowed access to Facebook at school only for educational reasons and only if they were under direct supervision.

"Tens of thousands of our students on a daily basis suffer in silence as a direct result of latent bullying through social media such as Facebook," he said.

"If it's in a controlled educational environment, that is, if the school has control over access to Facebook, I don't have a problem with it at all . . . the interaction it provides and the possible tools in terms of education.

"But students in contemporary society and our schools are becoming much more sophisticated in their bullying methods.

"They shouldn't be on Facebook unless it's in a controlled educational situation."

But bullying expert Donna Cross, of Edith Cowan University, said teachers and parents were desperate for more advice on how to deal with students harassed by taunts on social media.

"We are getting more and more requests from schools that are having enormous difficulties with young people who have become distressed from things that have happened on Facebook," Professor Cross said.

She called for education, rather than blanket bans on social media use, within schools.

"If we want to teach young people to swim, we wouldn't talk to young people in the classroom and hope they go home to their pool and practise it," she said.

"We'd take them to a swimming pool and teach them how to do it safely."

Shadow attorney-general John Quigley said banning Facebook in school hours did nothing to tackle cyber bullying out of hours.

He wants a State law under which someone threatening or harassing over the phone or computer could be jailed for three years.