I cried when I read about Jessica, because her story reflects stories that I hear from young people living, growing up and going to school here in Victor Harbor.
Jessica’s story ended as a tragedy when she took her own life. In looking through her laptop and IPad after her death, her parents found 87 horrible comments directed towards her and saw she had been cyber bullied the night before she died. She was told that she was a sook, that she should just get over things, with one ‘friend’ telling her 'if you come around to my place, I'm going to slam the door in your face. You're useless'.
Today’s teenagers grow up in a very different society than the one we grew up in. They are exposed to pressures that our generation hadn’t even thought about. Bullying via the internet is very different from the teasing and conflicts that we found ourselves in as young adults.
If we want the youth of today to be the leaders and productive members of tomorrow’s society we need to support them. Today, over 90 percent of teenagers use a mobile phone, making it the most popular form of technology and a common medium for cyber bullying.
Text messages, Facebook, Instagram are also mediums for threatening, humiliating and very public ways of teasing someone. These texts and messages can be had with dozens of participants, day or night. We know that 10 to 20 percent of teenagers experience bullying on a regular basis. Victims feel humiliated, ashamed, embarrassed, and isolated and rarely talk to their parents, teachers or others about it.
They develop significant depression, low self-esteem, anxiety and are at greater risk of suicide. As adults we need to look after our youth. Parents need to monitor their teenagers cyber activity and ensure they are not contributing to mean messages, even if someone else started them. It is important that teenagers are able to talk to an adult if cyber bullying is occurring, and they don’t feel like they’re going to be further ostracised or punished.
As a community we need to support and encourage all of our young people. I believe we need a mental health drop in centre, where teenagers can talk to a professional or responsible adult about cyber bullying.
This is where mental health issues can be addressed early, where resilient behaviours can be taught and reinforced, and where the youth of Victor Harbor know they are valued. The youth of today are Victor Harbor’s future and we need to put our money where our mouth is and show them that we really value them.
Getting Help – If you have been bullied, or witnessed others been bullied and need help contact: Kids Help Line (1800 55 1800), Lifeline (13 11 14).