BULLYING AND SOCIAL MEDIA
I spoke recently with the editor of our local paper who was doing a feature article about bullying among young people and in particular the use of phones, texting and social media as bullying tools. It was an interesting conversation reflecting both the feedback and community contact he has had, along with the experiences that we have as a college in dealing with the same issues that impact on our students at school. We both agreed that the use of technology by our young people has happened so rapidly that many of our parents are unaware of, and struggling to keep up with, the on line communication that our teenagers are involved in.
In the past messages were generally delivered face to face or in written form and by necessity were given due consideration as to their impact. Nowadays however a text or facebook posting can be delivered in a few seconds and the send button pushed before even taking time to think about the possible consequences. Messages are shared to others who then too become involved in the online interchange of messages, opinions and feelings, sometimes growing small problems and issues out of all proportion to the reality in which they started.
As a school we have noticed this phenomenon as something that particularly affects young girls and it would be true to say that our Deans and Guidance Counsellors spend a disproportionate amount of their time and energy dealing with the problems that overflow into our school days and lives. Luckily our boys seem to be less caught up and it would be true to say that our older girls too are a lot smarter about how they use social media and how it impacts on them. Parents of Year 9 and 10 girls in particular would do well to take a more active interest in the online exchanges that the students are involved with to hope-fully bring some moderation and balance to the way reactions happen amongst this particular group of students.
Sadly in some instances parents themselves are also becoming involved in student disputes and voicing their opinions online as well, sometimes adding further flames to already foolishly fed fires. As a school and community we can ill afford to allow this to happen and I ask all our parents to please have discussions with and encourage our young people to be more careful, more tolerant, more disciplined and more SAFE with their online practices.
We do promote Waiuku College as a SAFE school and we do many many things to support the safety of our students in the college, but when it comes to the online cyber world of communication, we very much need the support of our parent community as well to manage the challenging issues that we are facing. Please in particular reinforce the message that we give, and that is to 'TELL SOMEONE' if you are being harassed or bullied - and NOT to take the law into your own hands by responding or retaliating'!
NETSAFE is a government funded agency to promote cybersafety and their website has some great advice and tools for parents around this growing issue of online safety.