Online Safety Series Brings Back Memories

by Nikkita Dixon

With yesterday’s launch of iiNet’s Online Safety Series, our staff have not only shared advice and tips, but also experiences of their own.

The issue of cyber bullying in particular has struck a chord among many of us. With the rise of The Internet Age, children (well, everyone really) are now faced with an entirely new breed of bullying – the online kind. Whether in chat rooms, through Facebook pages or on the playground, bullying is still at its core still bullying. It’s important to remember to speak up and tell someone.

Seb Sharp, one of our sales coordinators, began a personal blog called Project Seb a little over a year ago to deal with the psychological issues brought on from more than a decade of bullying.

His story is a touching one. It began at age six and continued until he dropped out of the schooling system permanently in year 10. In that time, Seb (then named Erinn) was subject to cruel and constant bullying for little more than being soft spoken and a little androgynous in appearance.

“Especially when I was younger, my teachers at first thought I was a girl. The kids in school took hold of that and used it to bully me. I’m not just talking kids my own age either, some of them were 12 years old, picking on a six year old,” said Seb.

As a child, Seb was physical abused and humiliated no matter how many times he changed schools. He had very few friends in that time and even went as far as to attempt  suicide at age 14, finally succumbing to the taunts.

“The problem with bullying is that when you hear something for such a long time and from so many people, you start to believe it,” Seb said, “but just because someone says something, it doesn’t mean they’re right.”

His childhood bullying has left some lasting scars. He admits dropping out of school early has hampered him in later life – “I feel like I’m this light that’s shining a lot dimmer because of what happened in school” – and he suffers psychological issues spanning from anger to anxiety to depression.

Seb’s story isn’t the first of its kind. Most people could recall the ‘weird’ kid in school and were probably witness to at least one incidence of bullying.

Understandably, Seb’s situation was a little different. Seb’s teachers knew the extent of the bullying and did little to stop it. His parents also had a hard time doing much to help the situation. Now the psychology is changing.

“Back then, if one person started to pick on someone, suddenly everyone would. Now, teachers, parents and the wider society are trying to get children to turn against the bully,” said Seb, “they’re trying to reverse that ‘pack’ psychology”.

But it’s not just the students that need to learn new habits. It’s the parents as well. No one wants to believe their child is being bullied, even more hard to believe is that your child might just be the one doing the bullying. Seb stresses that every now and then parents need to take off the rose-coloured glasses to observe their children and make sure they’re not the ones damaging another student’s school life.

“Don’t take it as a given,” he said, “Help them to be strong, take the high road and be the amazing people you want them to be. It’s up to all of us to stop this. Be a part of working towards making the lives of those at risk of bullying better. Please. Please. Please.”

If you’d like tips on how to handle bullying through social media (like Facebook), our first instalment of iiNet’s Online Safety Series might help – Safe  social networking for you and your teen.

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