Minto student Tyiesha Hair was bullied at school and online for four months before she spoke up.
The then 12-year-old was made to feel worthless and told she didn’t fit in.
Now that Tyiesha has moved on to high school, her mum Naomi wants other parents to have serious conversations with their kids about online behaviour, so no other children have to go through the same thing.
“It’s so upsetting, you feel like there’s nothing you can do to help,” Ms Hair said of learning her child was being bullied.
“I’m lucky that I have studied mental health, so I knew what signs to look out for.
“The whole ordeal was so serious I had to pull my daughter out of school and she missed eight weeks.
“She got anxiety and had to go on medication. She experienced suicidal thoughts.”
Conversations about cybersafety have been prominent in Australian media since 14-year-old Northern Territory girl Dolly Everett took her own life in January after experiencing cyberbullying.
Statistics recently released by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute revealed one in three boys and one in four girls aged eight and nine experience bullying on a weekly basis at primary school, and up to 70 per cent of kids are on social media.
The federal government has since announced all kindergarten students will be taught a cybersafety program.
Tyiesha, now 13 and attending high school at Mount Annan Christian College, said the bullying started in the schoolyard.
“People didn’t want to talk to me anymore and said I didn’t have any friends,” she said. “It started at school and then went to cyber-bullying. They’d send me mean messages.”
Tyiesha said the bullying made her feel “very emotional and angry” and she felt like she couldn’t talk about it.
“I thought if I told on them, it would get worse,” she said.
“I’d seen it happen before.”
Now that she has left her primary school, Tyiesha is feeling much better. She is more selective with her friends and spends less time online. She has some advice for other kids experiencing bullying.
“Don’t let them stop you,” she said. “Go tell your parents or your teacher what’s been happening.”
Ms Hair said parents had a role to play in making sure their children felt safe online.
“I think parents should know what their children are up to online,” she said.
“They should sit down with their kids and have a conversation and tell them that it’s safe to talk about things like bullying. They should know what signs to look out for that their kids aren’t coping. Ask questions every day.”
Lifeline: 13 11 14, Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800, esafety.gov.au
What to look out for:
· Unexplained cuts or bruises or pencil marks on the skin.
· Being quiet or withdrawn.
· Reporting vague headaches or stomach aches.
· Ripped, stained or soiled school clothes.
· ‘Losing’ lunch money or other things at school.
· Falling out with previously close friends.
· Being moody or easily distressed.
· Not wanting to leave the house or reluctance to go to popular places such as malls or parks (they may be trying to avoid the bully).
· Not wanting to go to school.
· Experiencing difficulty in sleeping at night.
· Becoming worried about a lot of things.
· Showing sudden changes in eating behaviour.
If your child is being bullied:
· Let the child know it is ok to talk about how the bullying is making them feel.
· Remind children it is NEVER their fault and provide the space for them to talk about what’s going on. Sometimes it’s good just to listen before acting.
· Help the child or young person understand the power dynamic involved in bullying. Discuss ways to stop giving the bully power, for example, walking or turning away from the bully.
· Reassure them that you will help to stop the bullying from continuing.
· Find out what, when and where it happened and if anyone was present. Contact the school or organisation where relevant and make sure they are aware of the problem and work out with them how to stop the bullying.
· Talk to the experts – If you don’t know what to do or where to go consider calling trained counsellors at Kids Helpline or contact www.esafety.gov.au.