Thursday, June 26, 2008

13-Year Old Australian Footballers Resort To 'Cyber-Bullying'

As a die-hard rugby league fan, and ex-junior footballer myself, I am not unaccustomed to the 'on and off' field antics that go on when it comes to intimidating opposition teams... Most Australians that grow up on the football field are also quite used to having to deal with a little 'biffo' in the pursuit of winnning a game.

However, never did I need to be concerned about 'cyber-bullying', the latest tactics used to intimidate opposition players in the NSWRL (New South Wales Rugby League) Under-13s competition - we simply didn't have home computers or the internet in my day!!

Listen to the news report
(be sure to pause the 'O Singapura' music stream on the left menu first):

The NSWRL is investigating these explosive claims of cyber-bullying within its junior ranks.

Young players and their parents have been sent a threatening video of an on-field brawl involving the Mascot under-13s side, which includes a warning that they will face the same type of violence the next time they play against the club.

The grainy video shows a vicious melee between the Mascot and Clovelly under-13s teams during last year's grand final.

By the time the video reached cyberspace, someone had added a music track and the message: 'Don't Mess with Mascot or this is what you're going to get'.

It is the first time the New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL) has faced a problem like this, so its officials are uncertain how to proceed.

"It's how these kids deal with life in general so the fact it's come through a football club is distressing and we'll get to the bottom of it," NSWRL general manager Geoff Carr said.

Mr Carr says rugby league provides thousands of kids with an opportunity to play a sport at no cost.

"Because a lot of kids can't afford to play other sport, they can afford to play ours and we attract a small percentage of pretty tough kids that have had a pretty tough upbringing," he said.

But an expert on cyber-bullying, psychologist Marilyn Campbell from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), says a tough upbringing is no excuse for bad behaviour.

"Boys are obviously in our society condoned to have more physicality than girls and sometimes when children don't have enough communication skills they might also resort to physical instead of using words," she said.

At least 12 players from the two clubs were sanctioned over the brawl during the grand final, and both clubs were fined.

Mr Carr says league officials were ready to place the incident behind them when the video emerged.

"This has fallen into the hands of players other than team officials and they've elected to use it in a particular way, which is not acceptable to society or to a football club," he said.

So far inquiries have involved checking the YouTube site for clues to who posted the video and asking the Mascot club to investigate, but Mr Carr says it may later include calling in the police.

Dr Campbell says the film-makers probably were not thinking that far ahead.

"This is very different from my generation where I might say something nasty to somebody but I would never write it down because that would be incredibly rude and there would be a permanent product and I'd be found out," she said.

"But these kids are exactly the opposite. If you ask them actually to go and say it to the person's face they'd say, 'No, that's too embarrassing, but I can write it'."

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