CHILDREN and young people who have been the victims of schoolyard, workplace and cyber bullying could be asked to talk about their experiences to a NSW Parliamentary inquiry via the internet.

The final public hearing of the inquiry into bullying will be held tomorrow, but the chairwoman, Robyn Parker, MLC, hopes to receive more submissions from young people via an online forum.

Mrs Parker will put the proposal – a first for a Legislative Council committee – to the other committee members tomorrow.

The committee’s move to gather information to help reduce the incidence of bullying comes as the final touches to a short film about cyber bullying, Best Enemies, are being completed. It will premiere in Sydney in August. The director, Ross Bark, and his producer brother Darren hope authorities will allow the film to screen in schools.

“We hope it will inspire structured discussion about the causes and effects of bullying,” Ross Bark said. “Young people and parents and teachers can use this film with anti-bullying programs to talk directly about the issue rather than theoretically.”

Darren Bark, who will attend the public hearing at the inquiry tomorrow, said bullying could lead to depression and suicide.

“If left unchecked, bullying is an issue which is going to explode.

“It’s something that will be carried on well into adult life by the victims and the bullies. It has widespread consequences for those who are targeted and their families.”

Mrs Parker said she would ask the committee to use social networking internet sites such as Facebook and MySpace to get direct feedback from young people about bullying.

They could make anonymous contributions, she said. “I think it’s important to engage with young people directly because they are the ones who are most affected.”

An international study last year found that Australia’s schools were among the worst for bullying, more than a quarter of year 4 students saying they were victims.

Anti-bullying programs have been running in schools for six years, although Mrs Parker said the initial results of the inquiry showed not all were effective.

“We know that one-off programs don’t work. What we need is a whole community approach to a program which is ongoing. NSW lags behind other states in terms of strategy.”

Initial findings have identified cyber bullying as an increasing threat. “The genie is out of the bottle in terms of technology,” Mrs Parker said.

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