Warning: This post deals with themes of suicide.
“Not many of you know this, but our beautiful girl has been subjected to some awful bullying at school,” Leigh Davey’s viral Facebook post began.
Since she posted the status on September the 30th, less than two weeks ago, her story has attracted almost 90,000 reactions, 33,000 comments and has been shared more than 46,000 times.
“In this age of social media, children (because they are children) think it’s OK to send hateful messages (to me also along with their parents who won’t take responsibility) without consequences,” she continues.
“I’ve had calls from these children calling me an old hag because I’ve defended our daughter, approached parents and pleaded with them to talk with their children and ask them to stop. I’ve even approached the children themselves, but been threatened by parents with harassment.”
For seven months, Leigh and Carl Davey say their 12-year-old daughter has endured vicious and incessant bullying which, until now, they’ve dealt with in private.
The family live in Western Australia, and Leigh says that the department of education doesn’t expel children based on bullying. Their response, she says, is simply; “Every child is entitled to an education.”
“What about our child’s entitlement?” Davey asks.
While their daughter sat in class, focusing on her school work, a fellow student noticed that her legs were slightly apart. They decided to photograph up her dress, and post the image to Snapchat with a caption about the “smell”.
Leigh Davey spent 90 minutes with the police as they attempted to determine whether this constituted pornographic material. In the end, it didn’t.
Their daughter endured “weeks of ridicule”. Davey says, “the girl who posted the video lost her playtime. The person who took the video? Nothing, because no one would tell who it was.”
“She’s been sent home numerous times after self harming at school,” Davey writes. “She’s not allowed a pencil sharpener as she takes the blade out and cuts herself.”
The response, according to Davey, from the department of education has been: “You should teach your child how to be resilient against bullies.”
It’s interesting how differently we interpret bullying in the schoolyard to bullying in the workplace. We expect children to endure it, to learn lessons and to build resilience. Bullying as an adult is taken extremely seriously, as it ought to be, by the Human Resources department.
Bullying in adolescence is considered almost a normal part of growing up.
POST CONTINUES BELOW: Is it time parents cracked down on teens?
“Last week we spent over 5 hours in A&E with psychiatrists, doctors and nurses, because our girl ‘had a plan to commit suicide,'” Davey writes.
“On Tuesday I am in court applying for a VRO against a 12-year-old to keep her (the bully) away from our beautiful girl. All because parents don’t accept responsibility for their children and schools can only do so much.
“Please, in this awful age of social media (or anti social media as we call it) check your children’s messages. Their devices are a privilege, nothing more, nothing less, so please make sure they are being polite and respectful in their messages. Teach the children to ‘talk’ not use text or social media to air their differences.
“Bullying affects the whole family, not just the bullied. It needs to stop and it needs to stop now!”
Since posting the status, Davey has been inundated by responses.
“I think it went viral because it’s a common problem in schools. 99% of messages we got were from bullied, parents of bullied and parents who’ve lost children through suicide,” Linda Davey told Mamamia.
Their 12-year-old daughter, who Mamamia has chosen not to name for privacy reasons, is still struggling enormously.
“She’s unable to have a ‘normal’ school life,” Davey said.
“I’ve also received a threatening message via messenger from the bully’s older sister. I don’t think we can do anything as parents and teachers. My husband says it goes in the ‘Too Hard’ box because there aren’t things in place,” she told Mamamia.
The nature of schoolyard bullying has entirely changed as a result of social media. The ‘audience’ of bystanders is no longer confined to a few dozen. It’s more like a few thousand.
Girls and boys in their early teens do not know a world without the Internet. It is where their days begin and end. Essentially, it is where they live.
A few decades ago, the bullying stopped when you left school. But now bullies have a portal into every bedroom, with hardly any parental supervision whatsoever.
Our mother’s used to say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” There is no comparable adage for bullying that occurs in a space parents are not familiar with.
And today, it’s not just words. It’s photographs. It’s a status and likes and anonymous messaging and trolling.
It’s not bullying. It’s abuse. And it’s at a time in one’s life when they are not at all equipped to deal with it.
If we can learn a lesson from this, it’s to watch. As Linda Davey said, read the messages. Watch what social media platforms they’re using. Limit time on technology.
Take the bully out of the bedroom. Or, as the case may be, take your own child out of someone else’s bedroom.
Because, with ever evolving technology at their fingerprints, the avenues for cruelty are endless.
If you, or a young person you know, is struggling with symptoms of mental illness please contact your local headspace centre here or chat to them online, here. If you are over the age of 25 and suffering from symptoms of mental illness please contact your local GP for a Mental Health Assessment Plan or call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.
You can listen to the latest episode of Mamamia Out Loud, here.