A school principal fed up with cyber-bullying has used his usually sedate newsletter column to send a blunt message to parents.

“GET YOUR KIDS OFF FACEBOOK. This verbal sewer is harming your children”.

This is the warning sent by headmaster Chris Duncan of  Lindisfarne Anglican Grammar School, in Tweed Heads who used the school newsletter to issue his warning to parents.

Cyber bullying is a growing problem in many schools, with parents oblivious to the suffering and depression that some of the children are going through because of the way social media sites are being used by pupils.

Headmaster Mr Chris Duncan

Image source: Daily News

Mr Duncan told the Daily News that he usually writes articles on education or school issues. However with a recent case of bullying via Facebook still fresh in his mind he asked himself the question “do parents know what their kids are doing on Facebook?’ and decided to caution them about potential harms.

“It was one of those reflex actions,” said Mr Duncan. “I put it [the newsletter] out and thought this is going to offend half of the school community, but the feedback I’ve had is overwhelmingly positive.”

Susan McLean, cyber safety expert and Generation Next speaker said “Today’s parents grew up in a world devoid of these technologies. They often have little knowledge on how best to assist and guide them and when interest or concern is shown, suspicious kids ‘fob’ them off with the typical responses of ‘You won’t understand…..’ ‘Go away its private……’or ‘You have no idea…..”

“Don’t be afraid of technology. Learn about it and embrace it as your children do.

Accept that they will access content that might upset them, often not because they went looking for it and make sure that they are comfortable coming to you when this happens. Spend time online with them. Cyberspace can be a lot of fun.”

Mr Duncan said he was aware of students who had been sent into an “appalling state” due to abuse they received on Facebook, with some children being more vulnerable than others.

“Some kids deal with it really well and other kids are mortally wounded by it and it’s just the way different kids react to things,” he said.

“I and all of my colleague principals around the country, deal with very distressed young people and very distressed parents who have been subjected to what I would call tirades of verbal abuse on Facebook.”
Mr Duncan is known for his nil tolerance of bullying. Last year he expelled two students due to serious cases of online harassment.

He urged parents to be proactive in their dealings with Facebook “My concern is parents are not overly aware of what their kids are subjected to until it gets to the point you’ve got a very distressed, abused young person.”

“Certainly if they’ve got primary school age kids they shouldn’t be on Facebook for a start and with teenage kids they should be aware of what they’re doing, or limit their time on the computer at least.”

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald. Cybersafety.