We had an anti-bullying talk from the company Bully4U before the holidays. Kevin from the company was an ex-guard and also had a background in counselling and working with youth groups and young offenders. He was very good at communicating with the children in 4th to 6th class and they told him a lot of what they experienced in school and online in terms of bullying. He gave the children some very sound advice and talked through some strategies to counteract bullying behaviour. Kevin talked about bullying behaviour rather than ‘bullies’ and suggested we can all fall into one of three categories at different times in our lives, ‘the bully’, ‘the bystander’ and ‘the victim’. He asked the children what they should do if they witnessed bullying or if they were bullied. The children said they would tell their teacher or parents. He agreed that this was a good response but instead of calling it ‘telling’ they should call it ‘reporting’ because that is what they are doing. They are not being tell-tattles, they are reporting bullying behaviour. He showed the children a video clip of a boy being bullied and asked for their reactions and what they thought he should do. He finished by quoting from the Desiderata and adapting the quote for the children to say to themselves, ‘I am a part of the universe, no less than the trees and stars, I have a right to be here.’
Kevin talked to parents after school. He advised parents to look out for signs that your child is being bullied or engaging in bullying behaviour. He said parents should check their child’s bag, books and copy books for notes suggesting bullying or signs of someone destroying your child’s belongings.
He said that if an incident occurs, the school should implement restorative justice as punishment doesn’t work but strengthens resolve. The teacher, he said, should sit down with both sides and give every child a chance to put across their point of view. This helps the children to have empathy and see what other people act the way they do. Then students who engaged in bullying behaviour should be given the chance to put it right. He advised saying, ‘your behaviour affected me’, as opposed to saying ‘you made me sad’.
Kevin talked to the parents about children creating ‘fake profiles’ and putting in false dates of birth in order to be able to access sites like snapchat, instagram or facebook or online gaming sites and being able to access adult content with false dates of birth. Kevin told the parents that the children today had admitted to doing this and he said it was common practice with children.
He advised parents to monitor what the children are doing online and not to ban them altogether or they will go ‘underground’ and do it anyway but you won’t know what they are up to. He advised against allowing them up to their room to go online. He said that things cannot be deleted once they are online even though some children don’t realise this. Children can upload videos of themselves in all innocence but these can be compromising later on if they are going for a job interview for example. A simple google search can uncover all that they have ever posted and could be potentially embarrassing if not incriminating. He talked to the parents about what the Gardaí call ‘soft information’, which can be sexting friends or sending naked images of themselves or others. This can all be put on record and used later if the Gardaí are asked to vet someone. Someone found to be sending explicit images will not get a job working with children for example.
Kevin also talked to parents about children following Youtubers. He said that they could easily be redirected to inappropriate sites even if the Youtuber seems fine. He advised talking to your children about being safe online and never following a link without first getting advice from Mum and Dad, for example. He talked about sites to be wary of such as Webchat sites like, ‘Omegle’, ‘Periscope’, ‘Lively’, and ‘Houseparty’. These sites can open up a two way conversation with your child and another person and uses the webcam on the computer so that the other unknown person can see your child. These sites have been known to be used to entice children to undress in front of the webcam, for example.
He talked about cat-fishing, where adults pretend to be children and groom children online. He said even a game such as ‘Clash of clans’ or online ‘Mindcraft’ which are on the face of it quite innocent but could be used by another unknown person to say nasty or inappropriate things to your child. He said he advised the children not to respond to nasty comments or comments that make them uncomfortable and tell Mum and Dad straight away. Then parents can report the other user. He said 8 ball pool is one of the safest because you can’t say what you like on it. He also advised against ‘Musically’ as it can be linked to ‘Lively’.
His final piece of advice was to plug out the modem at night to give children a break. Like everything else Kevin said, children thrive on boundaries and as long as you set boundaries and monitor your children then they should be fine.
The children wrote all the words the could think of referring to how bullying can make you feel on a t-shirt which is to be kept on display in the school.