Categories
News Opinion/Commentary

Victoria faces bullying crisis

Girl devastated as she is bullied by a group of girls
Image: iStock

Trigger Warning: bullying

According to Herald Sun, students in the Australian state of Victoria are facing a bullying crisis.

Bullies told a girl to “f-ing kill yourself” in a viral video. The victim attended Greater Shepparton Senior College.

This isn’t the first incident. Bullying has been a huge issue across the Greater Shepparton area. One parent said:

I freeze every time I get a call from the school because I’m worried something has happened again.

As a result, parents are calling for more schooling options. The local government conducted a survey where 94% of parents said they needed more options in the area.

Cyber – bullying skyrockets during pandemic

Teen gets bullied via text
Image: iStock
Cyber – bullying has exploded across Victoria during lockdowns. Children as young as 12 have been victims. Victorian police have warned that bullying has “…serious consequences in the real world”.

Social media companies have failed to stamp out bullying

This infuriates me. Parents have alerted social media platforms like Instagram and SnapChat about bullying content. Unfortunately, social media companies haven’t acted appropriately. Social media companies haven’t taken harmful content down.

Social media companies need to be held accountable. Governments need to introduce laws holding social media companies responsible for what’s posted. If users flag bullying or illegal content, they should be forced to act. If companies fail, they should be heavily fined at minimum.

 

Bullying becomes discriminatory

Children are facing racism, sexism and homophobia. That really hits me hard.

It’s disheartening. It should be a thing of the past. I really hope that victims of such abuse can find at least one adult that they can trust.

Fighting bullying seems to be a never ending battle. That we are losing.

We need more mental health professionals

Late last year, I wrote about the mental health crisis facing Australian youth. Anxiety, depression, ADD/ ADHD and conduct disorder diagnoses are on the rise.

Just looking through Google, it’s clear to me that Australian schools need more psychologists and/ or social workers.

The Liberal National/ Coalition introduced a program to employ chaplains. Apparently it’s cheaper than employing psychologists or social workers.

The National School Chaplaincy Program is still around, despite controversy  My concern is chaplains’ potential lack of training and education of chaplains, compared to social workers and psychologists. Will chaplains be able to deal with complex mental health issues that children are facing?

While chaplains can attain a Bachelor degree in Social Work or Counselling, they often obtain  Certificate IV in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care.

In contrast, an Australian social worker needs a Bachelor in Social Work at minimum. The Australian Society of Social Workers then assess aspiring social workers. Some social workers also gain a Master’s degree.

To be a clinical psychologist, the process is even more intense. According to the Australian Psychological Society, students have to complete a Bachelor degree in Psychological Science, plus an extra year for clinical study or an internship.

I’m not trying to disrespect chaplains. They can play a role in helping young people. However, psychologists and social workers can deal with complex social and mental health issues.

It’s time to take bullying seriously. Enough is enough.

If this post has raised any issues for you, feel free to contact:

Lifeline: 13 11 14 or http://www.lifeline.org.au

Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 or kidshelpline.com.au

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636

Categories
Gender/ sexuality

Study suggests that LGBTQ+ youth feel unsafe online

Girl with tablet crying
Image: iStock

It’s well known that cyber bullying is a scourge facing too many young people today. School bullies now target their victims after the final bell rings. Homes are no longer a safe haven for many victims.

According to education resource, Bullying No Way, one in five young people under eighteen experience online bullying. It is more common in secondary school than primary school.

It’s important to note that Bullying No Way advises caution when dealing with statistics on bullying.

Of course, numbers surrounding bullying can be hard to pinpoint due to lack of reporting. Shame and fear keep victims silent.

LGBTQ+ youth vulnerable to cyber bullying

The internet, especially social media has been an avenue of connection and exploration for young LGBTQ+ people. However, it can be hazardous too.

Cyber security blogger, Sarah Turner published an article on VPN Mentor suggesting that LGBTQ+ youth are vulnerable online.

In Turner’s study, 695 young people were surveyed. While it’s a small sample, the results are quite alarming.

  • 73% of all respondents claimed they’d been harassed online
  • 50%  of respondents had experienced sexual harassment online
  • Asexual people felt the least safe online of all sexual identities
  • Transwomen felt most unsafe online out of the gender identities. They also risked being outed.

This is not the only study to suggest LGBTQ+ youth are vulnerable online.

According to ConnectSafely, multiple studies from 2012 onwards concluded that LGBTQ+ young people are up to three times more likely to be cyber bullied than cisgender and straight peers. A 2012 study by Warren Blumenfeld and RM Cooper found that 52% of LGBTQ+ youth between 11 – 22 had been targets of cyber bullies a number of times.

In 2015, Centre of Disease Control (CDC) also found LGBTQ+ youth were more likely to be targets.

I’m usually skeptical of studies that rely on small sample sizes. But there’s a pattern that’s emerged that can’t be ignored.

 

Cyber bullying of LGBTQ+ people should be dealt with

One of the common arguments against the Safe Schools program was it’s emphasis on LGBTQ+ youth, rather than bullying as a whole.

If Australia is like the US in bullying rates, maybe we do need to have some LGBTQ+ – specific anti – bullying strategies.

I also think that many LGBTQ+ young people still face shame about their sexuality or gender identity. This prevents LGBTQ+ victims from reaching out for help. This exacerbates the pain and humiliation that bullying victims already experience. This is why I strongly believe that schools need to be openly supportive of LGBTQ+ students.

If this post has raised any issues with you or your loved ones, you can contact:

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636 or via chat on their website

Kids Helpline (for those under 18): 1800 551 800

Like always, if you’re not from Australia, please provide any contact details of counselling services from your area in the comments below.

Final note: the VPN Mentor article was brought to my attention via an email (thank you to the emailer). If you would like to give me any articles, blog posts,  or anything else, you can contact me through comments section, the contact form or email me at: sharnetty@glycerinequeenmedia.com. I’ll try and get to as many responses/ emails as I can.

Categories
Media Opinion/Commentary

The death of Amy ‘Dolly’ Everett should be a wake up call. Words hurt

Cyber - bullying victim distressed
Image: iStock

 

Content warning; bullying, depression and suicide

People were understandably shocked and upset to hear the passing of 14 – year – old Amy ‘Dolly’ Everett, the face of hat manufacturer Akubra. She took her own life after receiving abuse online.

This has sparked calls for Apple and Google Play to ban apps, like Saraha that allow users to make anonymous comments and posts.

While I sympathise with the campaignersa, I don’t think these calls for a ban get to the heart of the problem.

 

Here’s what people need to get: the saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me’ is a myth. I’ll go one step further. It’s total bull.

 

Words can kill. I thought we got this through our heads after the death of former model, Charlotte Dawson in 2014. Apparently not.

 

So, how can we stop this repeating? Maybe we can’t stop it completely. But what we can do is get honest, with ourselves and each other. We need to teach children and young adults that what they say matters. It has an impact and if they choose to bully someone, they will destroy both their lives and that of their victims.

People die due to bullying. That’s the reality. And there’s more. Last year, HealthDayNews reported  on a study that suggested that half of teens admitted into emergency were victims of violence or cyber – bullying. Nearly a quarter (23%) showed symptoms of post – traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The findings were published in journal General Hospital Psychiatry. 

 

Verbal or cyber bullying can and does have other affects, many arguably not so extreme. You’re ability to trust can be severely damaged. For me, it took me a long time to be able to trust people again.

 

Bullying also erodes your self – esteem. My self – esteem has hit rock bottom before. While it’s better now, I wouldn’t say it’s high. I’ve questioned my self – worth and to this day, sometimes feel like I’m not enough.

I wrote what I did above not to gain sympathy. I wanted to be honest about my own experiences and to demonstrate that often, the effects of bullying can last for years.

Fortunately, I’ve never been the victim of cyber – bullying. The rise of the Internet, especially various social media sites and apps, has made combating bullying complicated. This generation of children can’t escape bullying when they get home from school. Another complication is anonymity. They don’t have to see the impact of what their words have.

As I said near the start of this post, I don’t think banning certain apps like Saraha will work, nor is it necessary. Whether people like it or not, social media is the way most people, especially of this generation, communicate and a way they can get information and current events. The world needs to learn how to cope with social media, not avoid it. “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” needs to be exposed for the myth that it is and discarded. Words do hurt and cyber – bullying needs to be condemned. Period.

 

 

Categories
Gender/ sexuality LGBTQ rights

‘Yes’ won, so let’s stop the abuse

Images: iStock

December 7 was a historical day for Australia’s LGBTQ+ community. The Bill to legalise same – sex marriage passed the House of Representatives in a landslide.

January 9, 2018 is to be the day when same – sex couples can start registering their marriages, (excluding one special and sad circumstance).

We have won. But has love won? Daily Telegraph, news.com.au columnist and Studio Ten host, Joe Hildebrand has slammed  some ‘Yes’ voters for using the victory as an excuse to bully prominent ‘No” campaigners.

I agree with his assessment.

Australian LGBTQ+  won the opportunity to marry the person that they love. Yes, it was a hard battle. It was taxing. It did see many in the LGBTQ+ distressed. Counselors, including at Lifeline, saw a spike in the calls for help during the debate. Unfortunately, a number of LGBTQ+ people felt let down when finding out family members voted “no”. I won’t got into all the horror stories I’ve read about the tactics of some of the “No” campaigners.

However, despite all the the antics of some “Yes” campaigners and — dare I say it — scaremongering from the “No” camp, 61.6% of those who chose to participate in the voluntary survey decided that LGBTQ+ people can marry the person they love. Most of those seven million did not have a personal stake in the fight. They weren’t fighting for their rights. They chose to fight on behalf of many LGBTQ+ people. We can’t take this for granted!

The 61.6% result was better than what I expected. I thought it would make fifty per – cent, if lucky, or just under. I read comments on blogs about how people changed their vote because of the disgusting behaviour of some of the “Yes” campaigners. And, “No” campaigners and other skeptics of same – sex marriage, exposed that as much as they could.

Now, despite the antics of some of the “Yes” campaigners and scaremongering of the “No”, about 7 million Australians agreed that same – sex couples should be forwarded the right to marry. This is a victory for the LGBTQ+ community. About 5 million still oppose, or were scared off voting “Yes”. We shouldn’t treat them appallingly. In our victory in another step towards LGBTQ+ rights, let’s be civil towards opponents, even though some of our scars may not have fully healed. Let’s use this opportunity to reach out to our family members and friends who did vote “no” and be the first to build bridges.

 

On social media, STOP the abuse! (CW: cyber – abuse, coarse language)

 

This does NOT, I repeat, NOT represent the LGBTQ+ community or their supporters as a whole. But this vile minority will no doubt be used to prevent further rights and protections for LGBTQ+ people. Or worse, it will be used to demand a backpedal of existing rights and protections.

Final thought: These tweets, and probably more examples I haven’t yet stumbled upon), are nothing more than blatant hypocrisy. They scream “love is love”, then abuse opponents. I know many people have been hurt by the vote process. It’s been hard and taxing emotionally. I get it. Frankly, I felt it. But let’s use this time to all heal, rather than inflict more wounds.

Categories
Opinion/Commentary

Yes, words do matter

image
Emotional pain is just as real as physical pain. Emotional/ verbal/ cyber abuse is just as devastating as physical abuse

Content warning: bullying, mentions Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me”.

Hands up anyone who has heard that. I’m sure we all have, both as children and adults. Words are often described as “just words”. Nothing. Just water off a duck’s back.

But words do matter (I’ll get to an actual scientific explanation in a second). Victims of emotional abuse, either by peers, by a partner or family member knows this all too well. You feel vulnerable. The more it goes on, the more your self – esteem gets eroded. In the end, you end up believing the lies.

An area that people are starting to grapple with is online abuse, particularly on social media.While there are a number of laws in Australia that make things like stalking, harassment and defamation online an offence, in 2014, anti – bullying campaigners said that police were not trained enough to deal with these cases. Too many complaints were being dismissed.

According to Daily Mail Australia, Adelaide woman, Maxine Pratt, 31, has to face court after she abuse Adelaide Crow’s player Eddie Betts on Facebook. She could possibly be charged with using a carry service to menace, harass and offend. She has since denied that she was being racist and, as a part – Aboriginal (her words), she didn’t find ape references offensive.

Effects of emotional and cyber abuse

A few days ago, I watched a mini – series on Iview, “Cyberhate”, by former model, Tara Moss. On one of the episodes, she went to see a brain specialist to ask about the impact on the brain when being exposed to abuse online. The findings were shocking. Abusive messages affected a similar region of the brain that causes physical pain.  (If you are in Australia, I’d encourage you to look at the series through IView. It’s very informative, but also confronting. Be careful if you have any underlying issues or are triggered by discussions – and quite graphic and brutal incidence of verbal, cyber and homophobic abuse. The Orlando shooting last year is also referenced).

BrainFacts.org confirms that bullying can have a major impact on brain development in childhood, even going as far as saying it has the same effects as child abuse. The short – term and long – term effects of bullying are well – known: depression, anxiety, drug and drug and alcohol abuse in adulthood. It also causes stress, which, if bad enough, can leave the immune system compromised. Bullying victims can also become perpetrators themselves, creating a cycle of victims and perpetrators.

So what is the solution?

From what I watched from Cyberhate, just being stricter on cyber – bullying legally may be easier said than done. What makes it complicated is that, according to the series, a number of self – confessed “trolls” often (not always) show signs of an anti – social personality  disorder, including psychopathy. They may exhibit Machiavellianism; one of the so – called “Dark Triad” along with psychopathy and narcissism.

 I think the law plays a part, but so does psychiatric therapies to help treat those suffering from anti – social personality traits. However, the Harley Therapy Counselling Blog does warn that those who have Machiavellianism are unlikely to go and get treatment on their own accord, so, the only solution I can think of is court appointment when an offence, including cyber offences occur. For offenders who do not suffer any form of psychiatric or personality disorder, there does need to be consequences, including, I believe legal repercussions. Fortunately, young people are more aware of cyber bullying now and its repercussions on both the perpetrators and the victims, since they are talking about it more in high schools. Are the warnings strong enough? I’m not sure.

I think the place we can start is get rid of the “sticks and stones” myth. Words do matter. Words do have an impact. Bullying of any sort should be condemned and treated seriously.

What do you think can or should be done to combat cyber – bullying? 

(For Australians): If this post has brought up any issues for you, contact Lifeline: 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636. For people of other countries, feel free to put any numbers of mental health services in your country, please comment below.