We’re an emotional bunch here at SAHM, but even we were left shocked and frankly heartbroken at the stories of chronic bullying shared on SBS’s The Feed last year.
We feel so strongly about it we decided to record a Podcast about it.
Bullying In Australia
Every single day in Australia, an estimated 100,000 kids opt to stay home from school because they don’t feel safe. They’re victims of bullies. These bullies are kids who, for some reason or another, are relentlessly pursuing and harassing their peers, with shocking results. Even more difficult is the inescapable cyber bullying, attacking kids on their social media accounts and even their mobile phones.
The effect is devastating. Aussie kids as young as 12 are literally being bullied to death, with some kids mental health services reporting three suicides a week across the country, all because of bullying.
If anyone knows the effect that bullying can have on a person, it’s 13-year-old Tayla. She featured in The Feeds episode on bullying, and has had it worse than most. She experienced bullying so severe that Child Services suggested she not only move schools, but also leave town.
“They were always picking on me, calling me names,” Tayla said in the program. “I got beaten up. I would bring money to school and they started stealing it off me.”
“I stopped eating because they said I was fat as a pig… They were so mean to me all the time.”
“All the kids would say go and jump off a cliff. We don’t really care. It made me feel really terrible like no one loved me anymore.”
Tayla’s mum Kali said she overwhelmed by the situation as a parent, particularly when she tried to seek help from Tayla’s school.
“The principal to me seemed to have no clue of the gravity and the criminality of what was actually happening to Tayla,” Kali said in The Feed episode.
“The principal had told me that ‘Well, if Tayla’s going to do unusual things at school then she’s going to get picked on.”
For Kali, it was heartbreaking.
“They may be just kids but the tactics that they’re using are criminal and destroy lives,” she said. “They may not understand the consequences but the consequences are deadly for people.”
Laws Around Bullying In Australia
Australia isn’t very consistent when it comes to dealing with bullying. At the moment every state and territory in Australia has different policies for how to deal with bullying. Indeed, there are no laws anywhere that specifically deal with cyber bulling, despite its growth in recent years.
Right now Victoria is the only state that sees bullying as a punishable crime for minors, a move motivated by the suicide of teenager Brodie Panlock in 2011, as a result of workplace bullying. Some people think it should be the last state, while others feel that a clear consequence for bulling would curb the trend.
Sanda Craig is one of the heads of the National Centre Against Bullying. She believes that criminal punishment is unlikely to be successful, but that doesn’t mean that something doesn’t need to be done.
“There’s been heaps of money thrown at this problem over years but until everybody starts to improve preventative efforts across the board then things probably aren’t going to change,” she said.
“Punishment hasn’t shown to be very successful against any type of negative behaviour.”
That being said, according to Sandra’s stats around one in five Australian kids are being bullied at school, and one in seven are being bullied online through social media.
In the real world those numbers represent large numbers of kids being targeted, harassed and put through abuse. Something needs to be done, but if we wait for the government to do it many more children could be left vulnerable and lost.
What Can You Do
There are a few things you can do as a parent, to help your kids if they are being bullied.
First, check out informative and valuable resources such as the Bullying, No Way website which has information for parents, teachers and kids on bullying and how to deal with it.
Second, talk to your kids about bullying. Share experiences that you’ve had with bullying if you were ever a victim yourself, and make it clear to them that bullying is never a good thing to be involved with. Talk to them about how they can help kids that they see getting bullied, and about the importance of support and feeling as though you have a community.
Third, talk to your school about their own bullying policies, particularly if your child or a child you know has been experiencing bullying. Discuss with administrators whether a bullying information session might be held at the school, or a special assembly to discuss the effects that bullying has on both the victims, and the perpetrators. School should be about a community that celebrates learning and growth. It should not be a place that kids are afraid to go because someone there feels that they should be punished for being different.