Because of bullying, Marnie's world was turned upside down
Marnie and many others like her become the unwitting victims of cyber bullying. It’s insidious and all pervasive. And it can ruin young people’s lives.
Technology has some wonderful benefits for the teaching and learning experiences of our young people. But as parents and educators, we must help children navigate the online world which is part of almost every aspect of their lives. All it took was one monumental betrayal
Like any teenage girl, 15-year-old Marnie revelled in the attention she got from the boys at school. And naturally enough, there was one special guy who became her boyfriend.
In the heady, star-struck way teenage love arrives, Marnie trusted her boyfriend. She sent her boyfriend a picture of herself naked.
Her trust in him was very quickly shattered - the boy sent the picture to one of his mates who, before long, had shared it with the rest of the boys at school.
But brace yourself, this shocking betrayal gets worse.
One of the boys had a sister who thought it would be funny to “Photoshop” Marnie’s photo into an even more sexually explicit image. This pornographic photo was then shared with all the Year 10 students at Marnie’s school
Marnie was bullied and harassed relentlessly. There was no respite. At school, on the way home, in the evening. By email, text, Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Snapchat. Marnie’s image was everywhere. No young girl deserves this sort of treatment.
The teachers at Marnie’s school had no idea what was going on and they were horrified when they discovered the extent of the sinister cyber-bullying Marnie was subjected to.
The teachers became aware of the bullying because of the widespread distribution of the image. That’s when the Alannah & Madeline Foundation stepped in to help.
Our eSmart Schools program:
educates young people about the legal consequences of cyber bullying
promotes the safe use of online technology
instills a prevention and risk management framework in schools to keep students safe in cyber space
Working with us, the school established an action plan. Students were required to complete their ‘Digital Licence’ for their devices, which acknowledged their understanding of what it meant to be smart, safe and responsible online.
This extremely serious case of cyber bullying meant the police were brought in. All Year 10 parents were called to the school and were stunned to hear their children had committed the offence of possessing and distributing child pornography.
Most of the children didn’t understand the magnitude of what they had done. Working with social workers, they came to realise the dreadful impact their actions had on Marnie. And they also realised what they’d done was actually a crime.
It was an enormous shock for the whole community.
Thankfully, over time the intense bullying of Marnie ceased. Marnie’s world was turned upside down. Thankfully, the bullying was identified before things became even worse.
The Alannah & Madeline Foundation's eSmart Schools program is designed to prepare children for the challenges of technology they face now and into the future. What we have to face, is that in 2017, cyber bullying is more prevalent in our schools than you might think. It's horrific to see the damage it causes.
Technology isn’t going away. That’s why we need eSmart Schools in all schools - to protect all students from the harmful effects of cyber bullying.
When you support eSmart Schools, you can feel proud that you’re helping children in a way that is positive, evidence-informed and tackles the issues that affect their lives right now.
Marnie’s story is very sad. But hers is just one of the cyber threats that face young people today. From as soon as they can swipe a screen from right to left, children are vulnerable to the digital world.
The eSmart Schools program empowers children and their teachers to navigate the digital landscape smartly, safely and responsibly. Students must embrace technology – it’s a fact of life. But they need the skills to be cyber-savvy.
Smart facts about eSmart Schools:
More than 2300 schools have enrolled – but we need eSmart in more schools because still too many Australian children are at risk
The program was developed at the request of schools to address cyber bullying and cyber safety
Our proven eSmart Schools program gives schools a road map for a sustainable whole-school approach to cyber safety, cyber bullying and bullying
Some 80% of 4000 survey respondents agree eSmart Schools improves teacher, student and parent understanding of expected online behaviour and how to manage bullying and online incidents.
It used to be easy to spot a bully in the school-yard. But cyber space has made it much tougher. Cyber bullies are secretive, they use false names and send anonymous messages. And the damage they cause spreads rapidly.
Children are particularly vulnerable online. They can be victims like Marnie of cyber bullying, targets of online grooming or exposed to inappropriate online content. That’s why we must protect them. We need all our schools to be eSmart Schools.