In Australia 25 per cent of our children currently experience bullying and 33 per cent experience an online threat. We see the extreme outcomes of cyber bullying, in cases like the tragic death of Amy “Dolly” Everett, but what exactly are these kids going through? One case I’ve worked on involved a teenage girl who received multiple messages stating she was a “filthy whore” who was going to get her “head kicked in” if she was seen speaking to another girl’s boyfriend. Accompanying one text was a violent video of teen girls in a fight. The messages were from girls she did not know and they did not attend her school.

Boys can be just as ruthless videoing themselves in the act of mocking another boy about his weight. They physically threaten him then post the videos on a closed group over Instagram with the title “Fatboys Can’t Fight”. This develops into a competition as to who can capture the most humiliating video content while subtle taunts continue for the victims during the school day.

Cyber bullying is complicated and requires parents to break out of the latest meme-driven stupor on their news feed and carefully examine what they hand over to their teens when they allow them to have a mobile device. It is weak parental assumptions and a lack of knowledge of the device’s capacity that is failing our teens.

When you gift that first mobile phone, you are giving a device that is beyond the development of a teen’s emotional and intellectual capacity. It has the potential to weaponise words and images that can cause severe psychological harm that adults often do not see.

– Peter Sutton

Read more: Parents Can Do More to Stop Cyber Bullying

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