Bullying: it's no longer left at the school gate
For many of us, our phone is the first thing we pick up in the morning, and the last thing we put down at night.
If you are like me, you do this despite knowing that sleep experts recommend we leave our devices in another room to get a full night’s rest.
The lure of social media, unanswered emails, or YouTube can be powerful.
It should come as no surprise, then, that young people are the same when it comes to their electronic devices. The ‘fear of missing out’ whatever that brief flash of light or short buzz from the bedside table represents can be hard to ignore.
Unfortunately, as if the disruption to their sleep wasn’t problem enough, mobile devices also provide an avenue into kids’ bedrooms for something which could once have been left at the school gate: bullying.
As well as being ubiquitous, mobile phones and other such devices are always connected. The insidious consequence of this for many young people is that there is now no respite from bullying. It can intrude on their private lives, and into what should be their safest space – their home.
Sadly, for others, the bullying can have tragic consequences.
Like you, I was shocked and saddened to read of the tragic suicide of Northern Territory teenager Amy ‘Dolly’ Everett early this year, after she was targeted with vile abuse by an anonymous ‘troll’ on social media.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, sending his condolences to Amy’s family, said he was heartbroken at the news. I suspect it contributed to his decision to write to school principals across the country last week, urging them to take part in the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence on Friday 16 March.
Independent Schools Victoria strongly supports the Prime Minister’s call. So do our Member Schools, many of whom have already registered to take part on the day. We regard it as a positive way school communities can ‘take a stand together’ against the blight of bullying and violence.
This year, participants in the national day are being asked to ‘imagine a world free from bullying’ and share their big ideas. I know that students and staff in our Member Schools have wisdom to share.
It might not be a ‘big idea’, but I believe that the first step in creating a world without bullying is to lead by example. To bring about cultural change, we must be a role model in the playground, the staffroom, the community, and online.
Treat everyone with respect. Never be a bystander to bullying. Be kind.
We can lead by example at home too, making sure that our children understand what a respectful relationship looks like.
And maybe by leaving our phone in another room at bed time.
According to University of New South Wales research published in 2014, one in five students aged 8 to 17 experiences cyberbullying each year. As well as the resources linked to above, parents can find information about cyberbullying on our website and on The Parents’ Website. Schools can find out more about what they can do to address cyberbullying on the Compliance Framework.