25 July 2013

CyberbullyingIt’s midnight, a school night, and your teenager is still up, lying in front of a computer screen while you wonder how to encourage them to switch off and get some sleep. 

It’s a common scenario for many parents and one which a University of South Australia lecture: Cyberbullying and Teen Sleep, may help address when it is presented by experts in the fields of sleep research and cyber safety, next week.

Dr Barbara Spears, senior lecturer at UniSA will explain how “parenting through the screen” can help children to develop healthy and responsible attitudes when using the internet, while protecting themselves from harm.

The lecture is timely, with current research indicating that 95% of all young people, aged 10-23, have at least one social media account, and two thirds of parents are concerned about their child posting personal information.

“New technology has so many positive uses, but for parents to ensure their children stay safe online, they need to talk about online behaviour in much the same way they would discuss why getting in a car with someone who has been drinking alcohol, is an irresponsible thing to do,” Dr Spears says.

“Parents should ensure their children know that what is put online, can stay online for good. Comments on blogs and social network sites are captured forever, it’s not a case of out of sight out of mind. Those concepts may not necessarily be easy for a young mind to fully understand or appreciate.

“Parents also need to be aware that their children could be using multiple identities online, that this is a way young people want to present themselves, how they want to be perceived in their peer group.”

Dr Spears, who has recently been part of a national symposium whose recommendations include legislating to make cyber bullying a criminal offence, says the developmental patterns that teenagers adopt away from the screen will influence their online behaviour.

“Healthy relationships in real life will inform positive relationships online. If there is conflict in those relationships that is when issues of cyberbullying can arise.”

Acting Director of UniSA’s Centre for Sleep Research, Professor Kurt Lushington will co-present the lecture and discuss the importance of teen sleep and why Adelaide teenagers aren’t getting enough during the week.

UniSA research has revealed that just 11 % of more than 300 teenagers surveyed met the minimum recommended sleep length for teenagers of 8.5 or more hours per night on school nights, with that percentage rising to 49% sleeping 8.5 hours or more at the weekend.

"Teenagers are resilient but if they feel sleepy the next day, it is harder for them to pay attention in class and their moods are less well regulated,” Prof Lushington says.

“The evidence is that adolescents aren’t getting enough sleep during the week. Sleep is also important for laying down memories and for archiving and processing what they have learnt during the day. The lack of sleep can impact, academically, their performance in the classroom.”

Factors affecting teens: Cyberbullying and Teen Sleep will be held at the Bradley Forum, City West Campus, at 6.30pm on July 31. Registrations can be made online here.

Contact: Barbara Spears office: 830 24500

Contact: Kurt Lushington office: 830 24160

Media contact: Will Venn office 8302 0965 email Will.Venn@unisa.edu.au

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