Catholic education leader urges parents to tackle bullying at home following Dolly Everett’s shock suicide


PARENTS sending their children back to school are being warned to spot early signs of bullying and know what steps to take if their child is being targetted online.

Online harassment and youth suicide have made headlines this month after it was revealed 14-year-old Amy “Dolly” Everett, the “face” of the Akubra hat ad campaign, was the latest young Australian to end her own life after relentless bullying.

In a Facebook post, Dolly’s father Tick Everett called for more awareness of bullying so his daughter’s life “will not be wasted”.

One in five children in Australia say they were bullied in the past year.

On Facebook, Mr Everett gave no details of the bullying but said his daughter had wanted to “escape the evil in this world”.

He said he hoped the attention on Dolly’s death might “help other precious lives from being lost”.

Federation of Parents and Friends Associations of Catholic Schools in Queensland executive director Carmel Nash said a safe and understanding home environment was critical to tackling bullying.

“Parents need to be on top of it (bullying),” Mrs Nash said. “I think schools are doing a really good job. But it’s what’s happening at home that’s the other part of the issue.”

Mrs Nash said the Office of the eSafety Commissioner offered a range of online safety programs, and resources are available for schools, parents and communities.

“We have to challenge it together,” she said.

Abuse advice

An anti-bullying expert has offered advice on how parents can spot if their child is being tormented and what steps to take if they are targetted by online abuse.

National Centre Against Bullying manager Sandra Craig said bullying was “an ongoing misuse of power in relationships through verbal, physical, psychological and social behaviour”.

Ms Craig, a career teacher who has researched cyber safety and written anti-bullying programs for schools, gives a list of signs a child might be suffering at the hands of bullies.

Signs include:

  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Frequent tears or anger
  • Becoming withdrawn or starting to stammer
  • Becoming aggressive and unreasonable
  • Refusing to talk about what is wrong
  • The child being often alone or excluded from friendship groups.

Ms Craig said common to online and offline bullying was a power imbalance, intentional and cruel behaviour, and the same set of motivations.

“What is different with online bullying is the invasion of all aspects of a person’s life, the reach to a large audience and the perceived sense of anonymity and disinhibition that pertains online,” she said.

Ms Craig said parents had to be proactive about bullying and communicate well.

“Don’t wait for bullying to happen before talking about it,” she said. “Use opportunities that arise in conversation or raise the subject explicitly.

“Let the child know what bullying is, what to do about it if it happens and that they aren’t alone in their experience.”

For more advice visit the Office of the eSafety Commissioner website: 

Source: Catholic Leader

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