Peter H Brown Clinical Psychologist

Psychology News & Resources

Cyber Safety and Social Networking: Don’t Let Your Kids Play Roulette Online

* Alex Dickinson  From:  The Courier-Mail http://couriermail.com.au
* March 05, 2010 11:00AM <break>

A NEW website dubbed “a predator’s paradise” has become an internet sensation in Australia – but there is almost nothing that Queensland authorities can do to track those preying on children.

Chat Roulettehttp://chatroulette.com launched online in November, instantly puts users face-to-face with a stranger anywhere in the world

In a concept Queensland Police say is one of the most dangerous on the web, the site shows webcam footage of the stranger – one of more than 20,000 on the site at one time – and has an option to “spin the wheel” to the next stranger.Users don’t have to register any identifying information and the site has already been flooded with users exposing themselves and sharing intimate details.

Some reports suggest 20 per cent of the webcams show masturbating men. The Courier-Mail logged on to the site for 15 minutes last night and was connected to 10 users from across the globe – three were shirtless men hiding their faces, another man was showing his penis while a woman with a US accent started stripping. The website mixes the most dangerous aspects of social networking, chat rooms and web cameras, according to police.

“Predators seek out and chat to children with webcams and can place enormous pressure on them to transmit indecent images of themselves,” a police spokeswoman said. Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens’ Associations president Margaret Black said the concept was extremely risky for children. We are quite horrified about where social networking sites are going,” Ms Black said.

US-based psychiatrist Dr Keith Ablow has labelled the site a “predator’s paradise”. “Parents should keep all children off (Chat Roulette) because it’s much too dangerous,” Dr Ablow said. The site, hosted in Germany, was created by 17-year-old Moscow high school student Andrey Ternovskiy.

But unlike the millions who use Facebook, offenders on http://www.chatroulette.com are a lot harder to track, according to Associate Professor of Law at the University of South Australia, Melissa deZwart. “You don’t have to be a member or register details so the service provider doesn’t have the same control over its users that Facebook does,” Ms deZwart said.

Technology website CNET suggests most parental filtering programs will be able to block the website.

So here are a couple of sites that I would deem unsafe or unhealthy for children and adolescents to access. These are specifically sites that may well slip through the net of your parental control software. I will add to them as I receive your comments and as I do more research

Chat Roulette:  http://chatroulette.com

See article above.

Answerbag: http://answerbag.com

This site invites users to post questions, than engages users by starting a discussion around those questions. Seems innocuous enough on face value, but a sample of questions posted include:

when i say evil you say…?

when i say gun you think..?

Is it odd that I let Freddy Krueger perform a C-section on me?

How should we keep the aryan race from being polluted?
Check it out and form your own opinion.

Any other sites you think are worthy of mention?

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March 6, 2010 Posted by | Adolescence, Bullying, Child Behavior, Internet, Resources, Technology | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Violence and Young People: An Enlightening & Alarming Discussion

On Sunday 27th Feb. I took part in a rich and informed discussion on Violence and Young People on Peter Jan965_logoetzki’s “Talking Life” radio program on which I am a regular guest. I was very much a “third wheel” in this discussion, with the key guests being Dr Steven Stathis, Psychiatrist and Paediatrician, who is a consultant at Royal Children’s Hospital in Brisbane. Steven is also Director of the Child and Family Therapy Unit (CAFTU), and consults at the Youth Detention Centre, Wacol. The other key guest was Dr Mubarak Ali, a researcher in Social Work at Flinders University in Adelaide. Mubarak has done extensive and ground-breaking international research examining child and youth use of the internet and digital technology, and how this usage correlates with violent behaviour. It was a rich discussion with some interesting content and phone calls. If this is a topic which in any way interests you, I would encourage you to take the time to have a listen.

UPDATE: You can now listen to the entire podcast by selecting the links below. These files are now stored in my library internally for easy access: (Free – mp3-internal links) click to play or right click and “save link /target as” to download.

Youth Violence part 1

Youth Violence part 2

Youth Violence part 3

Youth Violence part 4

OR

Peter Janetzki

Peter Janetzki

A podcast of the entire show in easy to listen parts, and podcasts of recent shows can be found here or by clicking on the 96.5 logo.You can listen to the podcast from your browser or with iTunes, Talking Life streams live every Sunday night from from 8-10pm Australian Eastern Standard Time (GMT+10) and you can listen by going to the 96.5 website @ 96five.com and clicking on the home page media player.

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March 4, 2010 Posted by | Adolescence, Alcohol, Bullying, Child Behavior, Education, Identity, Internet, Parenting, Resilience, Technology | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

REPOST: Talking to Your Child About What’s in The News

I originally blogged this post on August 5th last year. With the recent natural disasters in places like Haiti and Chile, and also the very raw and terrible tragedies involving young children and youth closer to my home in southeast Queensland, Australia, I have decided to repost it. I have done so in case it is helpful for other parents who, like myself are dealing with kids who are concerned about what they see and hear and read about troubling local and world events…

My experience is that many children, particularly those who have generalised anxiety can become quite distressed by exposure to seemingly innocuous exposure to events that are a part of everyday life.

9781572245822-crop-325x325Although news gleaned from television, radio, or the Internet often is a positive educational experience for kids, problems can arise when the images presented are violent or the stories touch on disturbing topics. While we worry about our childrens’ exposure to violence and sexual content in movies, on the internet, and on tv, we need to remember that news programs shpw often live and real images and media from real events which are often distressing and increasingly graphic.

News about a natural disaster, such as the devastating earthquake in China or cyclone in Myanmar, could make kids worry that something similar is going to hit home, or fear a part of daily life — such as rain and thunderstorms — that they’d never worried about before.

Reports on natural disasters, child abductions, homicides, terrorist attacks, and school violence can teach kids to view the world as a confusing, threatening, or unfriendly place.

How can you deal with these disturbing stories and images? Talking to your kids about what they watch or hear will help them put frightening information into a reasonable context.

How Kids Perceive the News

Unlike movies or entertainment programs, news is real. But depending on a child’s age or maturity level, he or she may not yet understand the distinctions between fact and fantasy. By the time kids reach 7 or 8, however, what they see on TV can seem all too real. For some youngsters, the vividness of a sensational news story can be internalized and transformed into something that might happen to them. A child watching a news story about a bombing on a bus or a subway might worry, “Could I be next? Could that happen to me?”Natural disasters or

stories of other types of devastation can be personalized in the same manner. A child in Massachusetts who sees a house being swallowed by floods from a hurricane in Louisiana may spend a sleepless night worrying about whether his home will be OK in a rainstorm. A child in Chicago, seeing news about an attack on subways in London, might get scared about using public transportation around town. TV has the effect of shrinking the world and bringing it into our own living rooms.

By concentrating on violent stories, TV news also can promote a “mean-world” syndrome and give kids an inaccurate view of what the world and society are actually like.

Talking About the News

9780814474464-crop-325x325

To calm children’s fears about the news, parents should be prepared to deliver what psychologists call “calm, unequivocal, but limited information.” This means delivering the truth, but only as much truth as a child needs to know. The key is to be as truthful yet as inexplicit as you can be. There’s no need to go into more details than your child is interested in. Although it’s true that some things — like a natural disaster — can’t be controlled, parents should still give kids space to share their fears. Encourage them to talk openly about what scares them.

March 1, 2010 Posted by | Adolescence, anxiety, Bullying, Child Behavior, Education, Internet, Resilience, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

School Related Issues: Guest apearance on 96.5 FM’s “Talking Life”

On Sunday 14th February I took part in a discussion on School related issues from preschool to Secondary school as a guest on Peter Jan965_logoetzki’s terrific “Talking Life” radio program on which I have been a regular guest over its nine year history. It was a great discussion with some interesting content and phone calls.

 

Peter Janetzki

Peter Janetzki

 

A podcast of the entire show and recent shows can be found here or by clicking on the 96.5 logo.You can listen to the podcast from your browser or with iTunes, The show streams live every Sunday night from from 8-10pm Australian Eastern Standard Time (GMT+10) and you can listen by going to the 96.5 website @ 96five.com and clicking on the home page media player.

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February 26, 2010 Posted by | Adolescence, anxiety, Aspergers, Aspergers Syndrome, Autism, Bullying, Child Behavior, depression, Education, Girls, Internet, Parenting, Resilience, Resources, self harm, stress | | Leave a comment

Teenage Girls and Bullying Part II: What does it Look Like & What Can We Do?

The friendships women experience in their youth are some of the closest they will have in their lifetime. While these relationships can provide girls with wonderful support and encouragement when they are growing up, they can also be a source of great tension. The importance that girls place on these friendships can lead them to either become distressed over a perceived lack of friends or to accept poor treatment from these ‘friends’. This article will examine the practice of bullying amongst girls.9780156027342-crop-325x325

Until relatively recently, little was written about the negative aspects of girls’ friendships. There appeared to be almost a reluctance to acknowledge that women could be responsible for inflicting pain on other women. The publication of Rachel Simmons‘ Odd Girl Out and Rosalind Wilson’s Queen Bees and Wannabes in 2002, generated discussion on the topic and with it a move towards recognising that girls participate in their own form of bullying.

Whereas bullying amongst boys tends to involve physical or verbal abuse, girls participate in quite different methods. They typically rely on exclusion or the threat of exclusion, creating and perpetuating rumours, non-verbal gestures such as facial expressions and the sabotaging of others’ relationships. Rachel Simmons proposes that girls use these strategies because in our society it is less socially acceptable for them to display physical aggression (1). Girls are expected to be nurturing, kind, quiet and nice to others. Physical aggression is seen as unfeminine. These social expectations result in girls’ aggression being channelled into non-physical, indirect forms.

Bullying occurs predominantly in late primary school or in the first years of secondary school (2). It appears that girls bully for a range of reasons. Some girls may themselves be the subject of bullying or abuse from others. In these cases, becoming a bully may provide them with a release for the emotions they are experiencing. It also provides them with an opportunity to feel powerful and in control. Other girls bully as a way of gaining or maintaining popularity, to relieve boredom, because they believe everyone does it or simply because they think it is fun.

Girls may learn bullying behaviours from their parents, older siblings as well as their peers. Such behaviours are also featured in the television shows, movies and magazines popular with this audience. For example, gossiping, backstabbing, spreading rumours or revealing someone’s secrets form many of the storylines in The O.C. and are actively encouraged in reality shows like Big Brother. If many of the female relationships that girls are presented include elements of bullying this type of behaviour becomes normalised, as just part of ‘being a girl’.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001ABPKS0?ie=UTF8&tag=pethbroclipsy-20&linkCode=xm2&creativeASIN=B001ABPKS0

There are two distinct targets of bullying amongst girls, the ‘outsider’ and a member of an immediate circle of friends. The ‘outsider’ is often perceived by her female peers as being different in some way. This difference may relate to a girl’s physical attributes, intellectual level, ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or socio-economic background. She is generally ostracised by the vast majority of her peers with anyone wanting to be friends made aware that they will also become the subject of bullying. The ‘outsider’ may not just be shunned by people her own age but also by those younger or older than her. As a result she may feel incredibly isolated and alone. Her sense of self worth may become eroded to the extent that she contemplates suicide.

As the ‘outsider’s’ exclusion is so pronounced it is more likely to be recognised by teachers at school who may be able to address the situation to some degree. For example, if the behaviour toward the ‘outsider’ is racially motivated the teacher can reinforce with students the seriousness of making racist remarks. Unfortunately, teachers are not always skilled and/or supported to deal with bullying. Some may dismiss the experience of bullying as simply ‘part of growing up’. In some instances, the teacher may also perceive the ‘outsider’ to be different and participate in the bullying themselves to a degree.

The second target is the girl who is bullied within a circle of friends. Although she may not experience the complete isolation of the ‘outsider’ her experience of being bullied can also be emotionally damaging. The friendship group typically includes one girl in particular who has the majority of the power within the group. Her popularity may be due to attractiveness, wealth or sporting ability. One other member of the group is usually her best friend. The rest of the group consists of girls who want to be the friends of the most popular girl and her best friend. Their status in the group is often precarious, being completely dependent on the other two girls’ current opinion of them. Usually one or two of these girls is selected to be the current ‘favourites’. The remaining girls, therefore, are at risk of becoming the current target for bullying from the rest of the group.

In some cases, the popular girl is not directly involved in the bullying herself. Her power over the others in the group results in them carrying out the bullying on her behalf as a way of proving their loyalty to her. Often the cruelest behaviour comes from one of the girls chosen as a current favourite. As her position is only temporary (she has been the target in the past and will be in the future) she makes the most of her elevated status.

The bullying is often subtle and is largely based on the threat of exclusion from the group. The girl who is targeted may not be invited to social events or is given the silent treatment. Personal details she shared with the popular girls when she was a ‘favourite’ may be disclosed (eg. the name of a boy she likes) or rumours started about her. Her every behaviour, what she says, what she wears, is put under intense scrutiny with any faux pas taken as further evidence she should not really be in the group. The reason for her becoming the target is often not made obvious to her. Not being aware of what she has done leaves the girl scrutinising her own behaviour in an attempt to discover (and rectify) the wrongdoing.

The bullying is often done in a way that makes it difficult for the target to confront the other girls about it. For example, the rest of the group may offer to do her make-up for her before they attend a party. When they deliberately make her look unattractive it is hard for her to challenge them. If she suggests they have not done a good job they will disagree, trying to convince her she looks beautiful. Her complaints may also cause her to say she is ungrateful or ‘up herself’. As a result, the target may begin to question her own beliefs or outlook. She may think to herself, “Maybe the make-up isn’t really that bad”. If she refuses to attend the party she risks being excluded from the friendship group permanently. If she goes to the party she not only risks public humiliation but her compliance may be a further source of irritation to the other girls.

The more popular girls’ power relies on exclusive friendships. If the target has other friends, the threat of being 9780749924379-crop-325x325expelled from this particular friendship group will be less of a concern. To ensure their position of power the popular girls will often actively discourage any friendships outside the immediate friendship group. This might be achieved by ridiculing any activities a girl participates in that do not include members of the immediate group (ie. band, sporting team, part time work). Existing friendships may be deliberately sabotaged through the spread of gossip or rumours (eg. telling a girl’s outside friend/s that she said something negative about them). The result is limited opportunities for the girl to form other friendships (and therefore keeping them dependent on the immediate friendship group).

When a girl is the target of her friendship group’s bullying she will typically feel worried and anxious as well as alone. Having the people she admires and thinks of as her friends turn on her can be devastating. But why would someone tolerate this kind of behaviour towards them? It seems that for some girls belonging to a friendship group is of such importance they are willing to be part of a group that is damaging than not be in one at all (3). As the target of bullying within the group changes the girls can also choose to overlook the times they are bullied for those when they are a favourite.

The bullying that occurs within a circle of friends often goes unnoticed by both parents and teachers. Unlike with the ‘outsider’ where the girl’s aloneness often alerts people to a problem, the girl being bullied by those in an immediate friendship group appears to belong to a social group. For example, during lunch breaks and in class she has other girls she sits together with rather than being on her own. The alternation between being the target and being a chosen favourite also makes detection difficult.

Cyberbullying

Communicating via the internet or mobile phone plays an important role in young women’s lives. Unfortunately, these technology platforms are also being used in bullying. Cyberbullying includes the use of email, mobile phone, text messaging, instant messaging and websites to bully others (4). Cyberbullying is a concern as it increases the length of time the target can be bullied for. Previously, a girl might have been targeted during school but upon arriving home she found some relief. The use of technologies like text messaging and emails, however, means the bullying is extended way beyond the school gates. The ease with which one can set up an email address with an invented name or a website also provides the bullies with a greater degree of anonymity. This anonymity can result in the escalation of bullying as there is less chance they will be detected. The bully may set up a website containing false, derogatory information about the target and email others the site address. If the site has been created within Yahoo or the equivalent it may be difficult for the target to have it removed. For those being bullied, the use of a platform like a website is incredibly distressing as the scale of humiliation is potentially far greater-anyone in the world with internet access can view the site.

Technology also provides girls with an extremely effective method of exclusion. Whispers may have been used in the past, but exclusion can now take the form of sending a text message to everyone but the target or not sharing the password to an instant messaging group. As friendship groups typically communicate for considerable periods of time after school, the target can feel very left out and anxious about what is being discussed in her absence.

Short and long term consequences of bullying

Previously, bullying was often thought of as part of growing up, to be endured and even as something that was ‘character building’. Little sympathy tended to be given to those who were bullied. It is now recognised, however, that bullying is not an acceptable practice and that it can have both short and long term effects.

In the short term, bullying can seriously impact on a girl’s academic success. She may start to miss school in an effort to avoid the bullying that is occurring. When she attends it is difficult for her to focus adequately on her school work. A girl who is being bullied might develop physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches and nausea, which can all interfere with her learning capabilities. If academic achievement is one of the triggers for being bullied a girl may also deliberately under-achieve to fit in. In addition, choosing subjects based on what their friends are doing rather than what might be required for their desired career can seriously limit a girl’s potential.

The need to prove she is part of the group may lead to a girl’s participation in illegal activities such as under-age drinking, illicit drug taking, shoplifting or vandalism. She may also behave uncharacteristically, doing things she knows are irresponsible and that her parent/s have warned her about (eg. getting into a car driven by a drunk driver, going to a house when she doesn’t know the occupants).

In the long term, bullying can impact on the way girls perceive themselves and their relationships with others. Most obviously, girls who have experienced bullying have low self esteem and lack in confidence. They are also at higher risk of anxiety disorders, depression and self-harm (5). They may find it difficult to establish friendships with women in their adult life, preferring male friendships. The behaviours that a girl experiences in her friendship group may also place her at greater risk of domestic violence. Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out comments: “if we do not teach girls early on to know and resist these dynamics, we may be permitting the groundwork to be laid for violence in their adult lives” (6). As in the friendship group, a woman in a violent relationship begins to distrust her own judgment (ie. maybe her partner does really love her) and focuses on her possible wrongdoings as a way of avoiding future conflict. She is also discouraged from maintaining contact with others (family and friends). The threat of exclusion (in this case ending the relationship) is used by her partner as a means of control.

Bullying is not restricted to childhood/adolescence as the same behaviours are often carried through into workplaces. Workplace bullying appears to be more common in the fields of health and community services, education and public administration. At particular risk are those who are casual or temporary workers and those in apprenticeships and trainee positions (7).

Solutions

The first step is recognising the seriousness of bullying amongst girls and not dismissing it as a ‘rite of passage’. There are a number of different strategies which schools and parents can put in place to reduce the risk of bullying.


Schools

Schools can develop a policy on bullying which includes the forms of bullying utilised by girls (exclusion, rumours etc). The policy should describe the types of behaviours that will not be accepted and clearly outline the process for making a complaint about such behaviours. The development of a school bullying policy should be supported by education on the topic for staff, students and parents. The topic of bullying can also be incorporated into the school’s curriculum. For example, students could be asked to read fiction in which bullying is an aspect or to write a play incorporating a storyline on bullying. Banning or limiting the use of mobile phones and email during school hours can help reduce the incidence of cyberbullying. The ‘Bullying. No Way!’ website (see websites section) provides a ‘strategies map’ to assist schools in developing a safer, more inclusive school community.


Parents

Some parents may be oblivious to their daughter being the subject of bullying. This is particularly the case if it is coming from within her friendship group. Signs to look out for are mood changes (sadness, irritability, anger, withdrawal), change in academic performance, reluctance to attend school or other events with peers and ill health (headaches, stomach aches, nausea). When a parent discovers their daughter is being bullied they may react in a number of ways. Some parents find it difficult to comprehend and, therefore, the solutions they offer appear simplistic. For example, the advice to ‘find some new friends’ seems like an obvious solution to a parent but it merely demonstrates to their daughter they do not really understand the situation. Other parents may actually feel a sense of embarrassment that their daughter is unpopular. Their advice may tend to blame the daughter for the bullying (eg. “If you just lost some weight…”).

Rachel Simmons suggests the best thing a parent can do is to actively listen to their daughter (8). Finding out what she is being subjected to, the people involved, length of time it has been going on and to whom, if anyone, has she spoken about it, is a good start. Parents can then ask their daughter if they have any strategies of their own and what role they wish them to play. Some girls might just require someone to talk to while others might want their parents to approach a trusted teacher or the school.

It is also helpful if parents try to understand and empathise with their daughter’s need to fit in. This is often difficult for parents as they perceive it as a threat to their daughter’s individuality. Even though they may disagree with people being judged by what their wear or how they style their hair this does not stop it from being a reality in their daughter’s life. As Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes, explains: “Adolescence is a beauty pageant. Even if your daughter doesn’t want to be a contestant, others will look at her as if she is. In Girl World, everyone is automatically entered” (8). This does not mean, however, that parents should give in to their daughter’s every whim. Rather, it means not dismissing their desires as foolish (“Who would pay that for a pair of jeans!”) and not always judging their choices by your criteria (yes, the other pair of shoes might last longer but longevity is not a high priority with adolescent girls). Efforts should be made to accommodate at least some of their requests. If cost is an issue parents can suggest for their daughter to get a part-time job, share the expense or request they do extra chores for a period of time.

A further strategy to reduce the likelihood of bullying is to encourage a daughter’s involvement in activities attended by girls other than those in her immediate friendship group. If she is the subject of bullying from her friendship group her interaction with other peers will provide her with an alternative perspective (ie. not everyone dislikes her). If some of her needs can be fulfilled from other peer relationships she will feel less dependent on the immediate friendship group.

Lastly, parents should remember that their own behaviour may model bullying tactics. If they say things about people behind their back, share gossip and give their partner the silent treatment they are suggesting that these behaviours are legitimate and acceptable.

Websites/Helplines

Bullying. No way!
http://www.bullyingnoway.com.au/default.shtml

This website was established by Education Queensland in collaboration with school authorities from the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments and Catholic and independent sectors. The website enables school communities, individual students, carers and staff to exchange ideas and useful strategies to combat bullying, violence, harassment and discrimination.

Kids Helpline
1800 55 1800
http://www.kidshelp.com.au

Kids Helpline is a free, confidential and anonymous, 24-hour telephone and online counselling service specifically for young people aged between five and 18. Bullying is the fourth most common reason young people seek help from Kids Helpline. In addition to providing counselling support, Kids Helpline’s website has a section on bullying which includes strategies and further sources of information http://www.kidshelp.com.au/template/standard.aspx?s=167&p=105&r=2&b=1


References

  1. Simmons, R. Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls Melbourne: Schwartz 2002; 20-21
  2. Kids Helpline. Infosheet 7: Bullying http://www.kidshelp.com.au/upload/4038.pdf. [website] date accessed: 14 January 2005.
  3. Simmons, R. Ibid; 54
  4. Belsey, B. http://www.cyberbullying.ca/ [website] date accessed: 14 January 2005
  5. Kids Helpline. Bullying-Everybody’s Business http://www.kidshelp.com.au/template/standard.aspx?s=167 [website] date accessed: 19 January 2005
  6. Simmons, R. Ibid; 161
  7. Queensland Government. Report of the Queensland Government Workplace Bullying Taskforce Report http://www.whs.qld.gov.au/taskforces/bullying/bullyingreport.pdf [website] date accessed: 12 January 2005; 16
  8. Simmons, R. Ibid; 232
  9. Wiseman, R. Queen Bees and Wannabes London: Piatkus 2002; 77

Source Queensland Health

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August 17, 2009 Posted by | Adolescence, Bullying, Child Behavior, Resilience, Social Psychology | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Teen Bullying: Tori’s Story & Trouble on ‘Planet Girl’

As I was writing yesterdays post on internet safety, I was again reminded of the rise and rise of adolescent bullying, which is of course aided by the increase in “cyber” bullying. Of particular concern, certainly in Australia and many other Western countries, is the increase in intensity and severity of bullying amongst teenage girls.9414a2c008a005ea72e5b010.L

This is an issue which all of us who work and live with teenage girls (and indeed even young adult women) are aware of, and as well as dealing with cyber bullying in my posts, I want to also provide some insight and direction for parents of young people who may be exposed to these issues within their social environment.

In April this year, Australian television current affairs program 4 Corners ran a story on this issue, and a young woman named Tori Matthews-Osman was prompted to write a story and to give her opinions in response to the show. who had written a story about bullying was invited to be a part of the show.

I have reproduced Tori’s story (with original spelling)  about a girl named Morgan, as well as her reflections of her own experiences with bullying, as a way of providing first hand insight into the world in which some of our daughters and their friends survive on a daily basis. More on this topic soon.

Tori’s Story

At this very moment there’s a girl, sitting alone in a cubical in the girls toilets. She’s sitting there with her lunch on her lap, with tears pouring down her cheeks.

Her long black hair has fallen gracelessly around her face. Her sea green eyes stearing at the door. Her make-up is slowly starting to run and she just sits there. She sits there stearing into space, zoned out of the things happening in her surroundings. Slowly, she pulls out her compass that’s sitting on her lap, in her pencil case. She starts to trace a small design on the top of her upper-leg, hidden to everyone else by her school dress, where no-one will ever see. At first she traces the design lightly but slowly she presses hard and harder, suddenly placing enough force that she’s actually cut the design in her leg. Her eyes drift down to her leg because she saw a red spot in the corner of her eye; it’s blood. It’s her blood and yet she can’t feel the pain. You can’t feel pain when it’s all that you’ve ever felt.

She’s sitting there cutting herself, hiding and crying because of a different kind of pain. It’s the pain of humiliation. The humiliation of being attacked by bullies.
The students, she goes to school with, either ignores her or they bully her, mentally or physically. Her name’s Morgan.

As you know, Morgan is sitting there, crying and cutting, because of the bullying. Her attackers are the so called ”it” people, also known as the ”poplars”’. Morgan is always thinking to herself ”What the hell did I ever do to you? Why won’t you all just leave me alone?” She sometimes wants to seek revenge on her attackers and see how they like the humiliation. But she never does because somewhere deep inside her, she knows that she’s a better person than them and that what comes around, go’s around.

You may have noticed that I’m using the words ”attack” and ”attackers”, this is simply because the bulling is a form of attack against her and the thousands of others that go through the same thing.

Anyway, she hides in the toilets at recess and lunch, hoping to avoid being attacked for just 1 day, but sometimes those same girls come into the toilets. They talk about things like boys, clothes, they talk about friends behind their backs and, they tease anyone that looks different or because they don’t like the same stuff as them. Morgan knows that those girls talk about her, because she’s herd them on a number of times. They say things like, ”Oh, my, god, did you see what she wears?” or ”she is such a freak” or also ”what a loser. I can’t wait till she’s out of our lives for good. People will dance on her grave, they’ll be so happy.” Some people also call her emo, goth, Chopper (because she has cuts on her wrists and legs) and a lot of other, equally rude things. Some of really bitchy girls will make up rumors about her. A few examples are: she’s addicted to drugs, she’s an alcoholic, she’s sick of life and is going to end hers and also she has a bad reputation with all the boys. As you can probably guess, all these rumors9780143004660-crop-325x325 are far from the truth.

The girls at Morgan’s school are the worst. Some of the boys are just as bad because they egg the girls on and cheer when they hurt Morgan. The girls do some really horrible things like throwing food and bottles at her, and then as it all happens, the boys will film it all and post it on YouTube for the world to see and laugh at. This is the humiliation she goes through, and what I was talking about at the start.

The reason why Morgan goes through all of this, is because she has black hair, listen’s to rock/heavy metal music, likes the color black along with others, sometimes she comes to school with a few cuts or burses’ on her and she also likes to be by herself. She doesn’t understand why this is happening to her. She does have a reason as to why she is the way she is. The reason is this: her mother and farther are no longer together, her dad lives 4 hours away from her, her dad has a new life with new kids and a wife, her mum’s constantly meeting new guys and has a new one each week, she has no friends, all of the teasing is getting so bad and she’s always depressed. All of these things add up and she just wants it all to stop, that’s the reason she hurts herself; it’s a way for her to release some of the plain and hurt. Some pretty scary thoughts go through Morgan’s head at times, things that others don’t understand, like, what if I ended all this now?, will anyone even care?, would anyone notice if I just left this hell hole? Or I don’t want this to keep going on, I’m scared that one of these days they’ll hurt me so bad that i get put in hospital and they’ll get away with it. Morgan hates these thoughts but she can’t help but think them, there is no way to stop them, but she hates them anyway.

The first bell has just gone, signaling the end of lunch. Reluctantly, with a sigh, Morgan get’s up and wipes her face to try and hide the evidence that she was crying and wipes away all the blood from her leg. On her way out, she catches a glimpse of her reflection: red and puffy eyes, black streaks of mascara running down her cheeks and a very pale face. Morgan walks over to the taps and tries to clean herself up a bit. Slowly her face gains some color and the black streaks are gone but her eyes are still a little red and puffy. Slowly at first, she makes her way to her last class of the day, its English Morgan’s favorite subject and the only one that she does well in.

English is over now and Morgan rushes to her locker, grabs her bag and her guitar and heads off at a fast walk, home. As soon as she gets inside the front door, she calls out to make sure that her so-called family is still out, all clear, so she locks herself in her bedroom and, slowly, quite sobs arise from deep within her chest. Soon Morgan is sobbing so hard that she can no longer control herself and her whole body starts to shake. After maybe 30 minutes of body-shaking tears, she hears voices: her mum and older brother are home from shopping. Slowly she hides all evidence of crying and heads to greet her family and help them. She forces a smile onto her lips, but it comes out very crooked, yet somehow no one seems to notice it.

After dinner, cleaning up and doing a little bit of homework, Morgan escapes to her bedroom, the one place that she can be alone and do what she wants without someone barging in on her. She starts to trace a design on her wrist and starts to think those scary thoughts again. This time they really scare her, so much so, that she starts sobbing again but they’re so quiet that only she can hear them. All of a sudden she has the urge to hurt herself, but, with some false positive thought’s, she doesn’t. To distract herself, Morgan gets up and turns on her favorite CD, music that tends to help her get through the toughest problems. Still quietly sobbing, she lies down under the covers of her nice, warm bed and cries herself to sleep.

This is the same thing that happens every day of every week of every month. Sometimes she does have those thoughts about ending her life and sometimes she thinks that she’s going to have a brake-down. Morgan is sick and tired of her mother being self-absorbed, of her farther not giving a damn about her or who he hurts, but mostly, she’s sick of being treated like she’s nothing, like she’s a piece of garbage being kicked around, because somewhere deep down inside, she knows that she’s not a piece of garbage and that she doesn’t deserve to be treated the way she is. One day she knows that she will do something about it all and she also knows that one day she will change her life for the good of things, because she has the will to do it and she believes in herself. She feels like she has to, since no one else does.

This is the way Morgan’s life is, every, single day and she’s very strong, a very strong 14 year old. Not a lot of people could go through this and hide it the way Morgan has and is. Especially no one she knows. No one should go through anything like this but people do.
What’s written above is part of a story that I have written about bullying and I hope that it opens up someones eyes.

This sort of thing happens in the real world. You may not want to believe it, but it’s the cold hard truth, and, the sad thing is that it will never stop. People say that they wish for world peace or for the famine over in Africa to end, but what I wish for is this: I wish that people, girls in particular, would stop being so bitchy towards one another. I wish that no-one goes through this, but I know that it’s kind of an un-realistic wish, because it will never happen. But even if it did, it wouldn’t last long at all, people would go back to the way they are now. It would be too hard a habit to brake, well for the bullies anyway.

I myself have gone through bullying and I’m still being bullied. I have friends that have been through it and are still going through it to this very day, and let me tell you this: it’s horrible to think at times that there must be something wrong with you to be picked on all the time, whether it’s because of the way you look or your weight or because you like really different things. It’s probably one of the worst feelings ever. Some of you may be thinking that what I’m going through is really bad, and at the times when it happens, it does feel really bad, but I know that it’s not that bad compared to what others go through.

I have been a victom of bullying since I first started school, in 2000. I have been teased because of my weight, because I wear reading glasses and a few other reasons. I have been called so many names, such as emo and goth plus a lot of other names that are too rude to say. I’m sick of being bullied when there’s no need for it. I’m bullied by one of my so-called friends, he calls me some really rude names and then when he asks why am I mad at him, I just look at him and say something like ”you can’t be serious! You know exaclly what you’ve done to get me mad!” He acts as if nothing has happened and expects me to ”give him another chance.”

Back in 2006 I would never have written to you or stood up for myself, but since starting high school, I have gained more confidence. In saying that I wil give you an example: Last year I entered your Short Story Compition and instead of winning, I was asked to be interviewed on my veiws on this isue. If I was asked that same question in ‘06 there is no way that I would have said yes.

This is something that I’m very passionate about. Someone asked me last month what my goal is and my answer was this: ”My goal is to go around to different places, whether it’s schools or other places, and tell people about what I go through and tell parents what the can do to spot the signs if your child is being bullied or how they can help their child get through it. Kind of like a spokes person against bullies.” I told my counciler about my goal and she told me that she needs someone that has been through it, to talk to a group of about 20 parents. I said yes and now I am waiting to find out when it will be.

There is no way that I would be able to get through all of this without the support from my mum. We are so close, we’re kind of like best friends. She’s always there for me when times get tough and I know that I can trust her with anything. It’s also thanks to my counciler, Chiara, that I can get through these things, because I know that I can talk to her any time at school, about anything and I know that I can trust her too.

After reading your artical and hearing about the boy, Elija I think his name was (sorry if it’s not), got me upset because he can’t help the way that he is. So what? He has something wronge with him, get over it! He seems like a pretty nice kid, and it’s not his fault that he makes faces sometimes. Everyone has flaws, no-one is perfect. The poor boy has no friends because people are turning others against him, and thats not fair!

Thanks for reading my what I have to say and my story,
Tori Matthews-Osman


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July 31, 2009 Posted by | Adolescence, Bullying, Girls, Parenting | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Internet Safety is an Issue for the Whole Family

The Internet is not as dangerous a place for children and teens as we previously thought, according to a recent law enforcement task force report. Real threats remain, however, and parents need to educate themselves and their children about online safety and privacy. This post is a teaser for a short series on the internet and cyber bullying which I will be posting over the coming weeks.

Be aware of Internet safety.

There are six major areas parents need to be concerned about:

  • Amount of overall Internet/computer use
  • Inappropriate websites—violence, pornography, hate groups
  • Internet predators, perhaps posing as children or teens
  • Online abuse and bullying
  • Divulging confidential family information or ID numbers

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  • Downloading/installing malicious software

Create a family policy.

Your Internet policy will depend on how old your kids are and what level of individual responsibility you’re willing to grant them. The point is to have a policy.

  • Use parental controls (see below) to enforce the level of safety you’re comfortable with.
  • Ask the child to suggest a reasonable amount of daily computer usage. Reach agreement on this and then hold the child accountable. Renegotiate if necessary—again, the point is to have an agreed standard, not to expect that the limit will never be exceeded.

Emphasize safety and privacy.

Be sure that children understand that talking on the Internet is the same as talking to strangers.

  • Talk to children about the dangers of giving away family secrets—whether it’s bank account numbers or vacation schedules.
  • Make sure children understand that anyone they “meet” on the Internet might not be who they claim to be.
  • Teach children to be wary of free offers or attractive lures.

Use parental controls.

Install parental controls and kid-appropriate Web browsing and email software at an early age. Let your children decide when they want to ask for less restricted access, and talk to them about their decision. And remember, controls are not foolproof.

Parental controls are available at several different levels.

  • Many Web portals, such as Yahoo! and America Online, offer child- and teen-appropriate portals that block inappropriate content and activities.
  • Your PC or your wired or wireless router may include a program that lets you monitor all websites visited and the amount of time each family member spent on the Internet.
  • Third-party solutions, such as the parental controls in the Norton Internet Security and Norton 360  free add-on packs, enable even greater control and flexibility.

Conclusion

  • The Internet is no more dangerous—or safe—than the real world. You can’t protect your children from everything, but you can guide them toward sensible and responsible Internet behavior.

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July 30, 2009 Posted by | Bullying, Internet | , , , , , | Leave a comment