Before I had children of my own I was a smug, opinionated, pain-in-the-backside who said things like *insert the voice of Sansa Stark… Read More
Before I had children of my own I was a smug, opinionated, pain-in-the-backside who said things like *insert the voice of Sansa Stark here* “One day, my children will eat all their broccoli” or “I’ll never allow my child to stand on her chair in a restaurant like that” or “If my child is cyberbullied I’ll just put him in a private school.” When I think back on my ignorant, self-satisfied, plump, youthful little face, knowing what I know now, I wish I could roundhouse kick it into next Monday.
Sassy Llama hosts workshops with girls across South Africa, some girls attend because their parents saw it as a valuable investment into their daughter’s future and other girls attend, because we have incredible corporate sponsors that want to make a difference in the world by giving away an entry. We also do talks at underprivileged schools as part of our Corporate Social Responsibility.
We have hosted girls from lani private schools in Johannesburg and we have hosted girls from schools where shoes are not compulsory, because not everyone can afford a pair. In most of my interactions with them I ask the question: “Who here has been cyberbullied?” And guess what? Most girls, regardless of the school they attend, have experienced it in one form or another.
According to a global survey by YouGov in 2015 South Africa has the 4th highest rate of cyberbullying in the world. The survey found that one in five South African teens have experienced cyberbullying first-hand and 84% know someone who has been a victim of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying doesn’t check your parents bank balance before it comes for you. It doesn’t distinguish between white or black or coloured. Cyberbullying doesn’t only target children that go to aftercare or whose parents recently got divorced. And cyberbullying doesn’t only happen in public schools.
I was blown away by a conversation I had with a mom the other day. When I mentioned that Sassy Llama does talks on cyberbullying at various schools, she said: “You should really focus your efforts on private schools-the parents there care so much more about their children’s well-being.” Another flippant comment I have received in the past is: “If your child is being cyberbullied, you are probably not as involved as you should be.”
These comments really get under my skin. We cannot be prejudiced and assume that social class, school or parent-involvement has a direct correlation with prevalence of cyberbullying. A 13-year old girl in Pretoria committed suicide two months ago while her mother was at her school meeting with her principal, to address the cyberbullying she had been subjected to. Jodee Blanco, who wrote: ‘Please Stop Laughing at Me’ addressing bullying, mentions that she attended three different schools and was bullied in every one of them. And Izzy Kalman, a Nationally Certified School Psychologist who has been working in schools and private practice since 1978 says: “Most of my individual clients happen to be students in private schools, and most of the schools that hire me to help with their bullying problems are private schools.”
The point is that cyberbullying is universal. The solution does not lie in pointing fingers at the parents of the victim, the economic circumstances, the school (be it private or public) or the platform on which it occurred. The solution lies in equipping your llama with step by step guidelines of what to do when it eventually happens to them.
Let’s not stigmatise cyberbullying victims, their parents or the schools they attend. In my experience most parents are kind, highly involved and desperate to find solutions. And most schools have implemented cyberbullying policies which govern procedures should incidents be reported. Let’s rather rally for education and empowerment so we can roundhouse-kick cyberbullying out of all schools for good.