16 January 2018Opinion
In my days as a kid, an era known as the 1970s, there was nothing new about schoolyard bullies. The difference between then and now is that the bully, or bullies, had to physically be within cooee of you in order to bully you.
The late 20th century gave us many wonderful advances in technology. One that most of the civilised world takes for granted now is the internet, which has enabled so many useful and wonderful benefits for people in society. However, like with anything, there are many pros and cons.
For example, we no longer need access to huge volumes of encyclopaedias to research a fact; now we simply reach for our phone and a web browser provides us with several instant answers. The con is that encyclopaedia salesmen had to find other work.
We no longer have to go to the supermarket to shop; we can order and pay for it all online and it will be delivered to our doorstep. The con is that there are less jobs available in supermarkets.
Socially, the internet opens the world up to us, and allows us to stay connected with friends near and far. We can make new friends that we mostly never meet, and there are forums where we can exchange ideas and opinions with absolute strangers. The con is that there are many sad little people hiding behind computer screens who use these same platforms to troll.
For the uninitiated, an online troll is a person who, among other things, sows discord on the internet by starting quarrels or upsetting people. They post inflammatory messages in an online community with the intent of provoking an emotional response from other users. This often escalates into cyber-bullying.
Cyber-bullying is the use of technology to bully a person or group with the intent to hurt them socially, psychologically or even physically.
As a parent of young children, I find it disturbing to note that one in five Australian children aged 8-15 has experienced cyberbullying. Equally as shocking is that three-quarters of all Australian schools reported cyberbullying last year, with an average of 22 complaints every year in a secondary school.
The traditional idiom is that bullies are cowards. In the 21st century the bully has never been more cowardly. The bully no longer has to be anywhere near you in order to harm you. You no longer get to see their face, nor even know their true identity. These cyberbullies can simply operate, often anonymously, via the internet from the comfort of their home or at leisure from their phone.
The fact that cyberbullying is driving the teen suicide rate up is despicable. These cowards need to bear witness to the fruits of their destructive behaviour. They need to witness the grief of families and friends at the funerals of victims of suicide. This is a disturbing culture that needs to be stopped before more innocent lives are wasted.
Schools need to educate students in a more confronting manner, not only on how to act when confronted by cyberbullying, but the realities of the harm that cyberbullying causes. Parents need to know what their children are using the internet for, be more aware of what is happening in their lives, and constantly talk to their children about it and support them.
There are enough lives lost unnecessarily without them being wasted by cyberbullying, and just as no means no, JLMA (an online acronym) means “just leave me alone”, and the trolls and bullies should simply take heed.
If this article has raised issues for you or if you a victim of cyberbullying, OPMG encourages you to contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or go to ReachOut.com. You can also report any incidence of it to Crime Stoppers by calling 1800 333 000 or contacting them online. There is always help available.