Triple R 2013!

With this years Triple R to bullying season having kicked off it seems all too apparent that this work is still vitally important in schools, but in this week’s blog, Sarah questions the influence society is having on bullying.

This summer it’s been almost impossible to ignore the tragic story of Hannah Smith, who took her own life following repeated cyber bullying on the site ask.fm. But much of the coverage about the story and comments I’ve seen surrounding her death have left me incredibly frustrated .

One ill-informed individual stated that this tragic event happened when it did because it was the summer holidays and the children were out of school; I would suggest that perhaps this person hasn’t stepped inside a school for a while.

Having spent a considerable amount of time in various schools and academies I have seen first hand how alive the virtual grapevine is throughout the school day. Breaktime seems to be as much about checking messages, BBM’s and updating your status as it is about chatting to mates- it’s perhaps the one multi-tasking combo that every teen seems to have mastered.

Even a decade ago when I was in high school, my history lessons were a combination of 1900’s medicine and texting my mates who were in the classroom next to mine, or playing snake on my 3210- and that was before smartphones, facebook, twitter and any other social media site you can think of, all of which will only increase the amount of time young people (and the rest of us) check for updates or comments they may have received.

Equally frustrating is that no-one seems to have noticed the links to other stories which have dominated the UK headlines this summer. What about Caroline Criado-Perez who received a bombardment of rape and death threats in July after campaigning for Jane Austen to appear on bank notes? Were these all from young people on their summer holidays? I doubt it. The fact is that we as adults need to be setting a better example to young people about what is and is not acceptable.

Unfortunately it seems that our society increasingly broadcasts unkind behaviour as a means of entertainment- and I have to question the impact this is having on society as a whole. Shows such as XFactor, Big Brother and the like frequently show unkind and bullying behaviour; we have all seen it, an untalented individual who, having made it through several rounds to see the judges, is then jeered at, booed or at the receiving end of sarcastic and harsh comments from the series ‘villain’ while we at home sit and laugh at their expense.

As far as I am concerned, there is essentially no difference between this and the child who likes an abusive comment on facebook directed towards an individual.

If young people were only able to stand up for each other, resist spreading rumours and going along with socially powerful friends the minority who initiate this behaviour would immediately be less powerful.

September see’s the return of Unique Voice’s Triple R tour, which encourages children and young people to Recognise, Report and Resolve bullying in their school. To encourage the relevance for this term, we have upped the levels of cyberbullying to truly reflect the impact this particular form of bullying is having on young people at the moment. Victims of cyberbullying even struggle to find refuge once they reach their homes after school; sadly bullying can now occur 24/7.

Following the death of Hannah Smith, her older sister also became the victim of online abuse- she raised an important point about the addictive nature of these sites, saying that while she was able to sign out of her account and ignore it, her younger sister was not able to. This is another important part of the work Unique Voice will be doing as part of the tour, and it is incredibly important that young people who are on the receiving end of bullying know the best ways to go about asking for help, who they can turn to and what they can do to reduce or prevent it.

I feel incredibly proud to be a part of this tour again, and can’t wait to work with young people and give them the tools to help resolve the bullying issues in their schools.

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