Bullying is not OK! The tragedy of Northern Territory teenager Dolly Everett’s suicide, as a result of cyber bullying, sends out a strong message. Parents need to speak to their children about bullying, and depression. Dolly took her own life, rather than return to school, after persistent bullying online.
Just days after Dolly’s suicide a friend of hers was targeted by a Snapchat troll, who baited her to kill herself. Katelyn had not spoken to her parents about the bullying, which had gone on for years. They were notified by another concerned parent.
This has to stop! And the onus is not only with the parents – schools, and people at all levels, including politicians, need to start talking about bullying and suicide. Bullying is not OK!
I am focusing more on cyber bullying here, but there are different types of bullying, some you might find difficult to recognise, and pass off as teasing. Bullying is more than just a fight or disliking somebody. Bullying can happen in groups, when they have the power and repeatedly use words, or actions to hurt you. It is being mean to another person repeatedly, over and over again. Bullying can happen in the home, with friends, online, at school, or on the bus. It can be verbal, physical, social, or online. A recent study reported 1 in 4 Australian students experience bullying. A high statistic, don’t you think?
What makes a bully? The bully might feel jealous, need to feel better about themselves, peer pressure to fit in with a group, feel angry, or enjoy the power they have over others. Often, the big one is they have been bullied themselves. Whatever the reason, bullying is not ok!
Signs to look out for, if your child is being bullied:
*Loss of concentration
*Feeling sad, alone
*Down on themselves/depressed
*Falling behind in schoolwork
*Feeling unsafe and afraid
Once you have a conversation with your child, they know you have their back. Ideally, speak to the Principal of their school, with their teacher present, and let them know what’s going on. Most schools have a “no tolerance policy” for bullying, and hopefully, the bully and the parents will be called in for an interview and it will be nipped in the bud. If you don’t have this kind of support, then you might consider changing schools.
Cyberbullying is different from other kinds of bullying, for the bully and the victim. The cyberbullies are faceless, and therefore, more bold than they would be if they were facing their victim in person. The taunts are anonymous and the bully feels safer and more powerful, and thinks they are able to get away with it. They are also not aware of the impact their behaviour is having on their victim.
Because teenagers spend a lot of time on the internet and their mobiles, the bullying can happen 24 hours a day. Victims do not know who is doing the bullying, or when then next attack will come. The bullying messages can be seen instantly by many people, not just the few people in a face-to-face situation. This type of persecution makes them feel unsafe, even in their own home.
Many parents have no idea that their child is a bully, and some, who are informed, take no action to work out these behaviours with their child. It could be a pack mentality, or they could be working alone. The bully needs to understand what the consequences of their actions are.
Again, talking with your child about staying safe online is central. Here are some tips to help your child avoid cyberbullying:
*Agree on some clear rules about mobile phone, and computer use – eg switch off all devices at night and leave them in parents room. Most cyberbullying happens at night.
*Talk about cyberbullying with your child – do this as soon as your child starts using social media, or has a mobile phone.
*Talk about what cyberbullying is: nasty messages, rumours on social media, ganging up on one player in online games, sharing private information of another person online. Cyberbullying can make you feel very sad and lonely. You might feel everyone is against you. Or you might feel depressed.
*Be careful of your online friends list – if there is someone your child doesn’t know as a friend, it gives that person access to information that can be used for bullying.
*Don’t give passwords out to friends – this gives power over to them to pose as you.
*Talk to you, the parent, teacher or other trusted adult about if concerned about anything happening online.
Bullying is not simply a normal part of growing up, and bullying is not OK!