‘I will make your life hell’: Bullying victim wants change
School principals are begging social media giants including Snapchat and Facebook to do more to stamp out cyberbullying as a bully victim opens up on her heartbreaking ordeal.
The call for reform comes as shocking new figures show cyberbullying has risen sharply during the coronavirus lockdown.
Under the current cyberbullying policy, Facebook says videos of physical bullying in a fight context is shared with a "condemning caption".
But NSW Secondary Principals Council president Craig Petersen said the companies should instead get proactive about the sharing of harmful videos to the sites.
"We think the social media companies Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat should take more responsibility for what is posted on their sites," he said.
"Simply making it harder to post that kind of material would ease the difficulty that we have enormously."
"It is really hard for us for kids to stop putting that sort of material up… the children get a buzz out of it particularly if they get a whole stack of likes and that is what drives it.
"It is an addictive behaviour around having it shared, forwarded or liked depending on the platform."
Taylah Bland, 22, was bullied at St John Bosco College in Engadine.
She was cyber bullied from her Year 6 classmates up until the later years of high school and now believes social media giants could do more to stamp out bullying.
"I think they can filter words more heavily, so if someone tries to use a derogatory term associated with bullying, you maybe able to take those out," she said.
The young lawyer was bullied relentlessly for most of her high school years by an army of between 20 and 30 girls who sent her mean messages at all hours.
"So most people would send messages through to me saying I was really stupid, you looked horrible at school today, you should actually be doing my homework or I will make your life a living hell," she said.
"They would go through my Facebook profile and edit the photos… putting random objects in the photo or cut half my face offand say it looked much better now.
"I told my parents about it and they took it to the school multiple times, but they said because it was out of hours it wasn't in their jurisdiction."
A Sydney Catholic Schools spokesman said their schools have always responded to allegations of cyber bullying.
"Our policy is that any matter of cyber bullying, including outside of school hours, is reported to parents and care givers,the police and any other appropriate authority and the school will endeavour to do everything possible to help students inthis situation," he said.
Push for reform at NSW schools
Meanwhile, a leading child psychologist has backed The Daily Telegraph's campaign for a single standard bullying rulebook for all schools.
Child psychologist Michael Carr Gregg said it was time to stop the hodgepodge of policies across public and private schools and create a single effective rulebook every school must follow.
"I think the idea of a central policy on bullying is an excellent idea. At the moment we have a lot of mindless duplication," he said.
He said he believed social media companies who ultimately profited from young students' use of their platforms should do moreto protect them from bullies.
"The social media companies could do a great deal more in kicking off people who engage in harassing behaviour and trying to take down offensive posts when they go up rather than leaving them for days and days," he said.
He criticised Facebook's policy which said it would identify videos depicting schoolyard bullying including fights but would not take the content down to stop further damage to the victims.
Under its current bullying policy, Facebook said it was able to identify these videos of physical bullying and said it inserted a "condemning caption".
But Mr Carr-Gregg said they must simply remove the videos from their sites to stop more damage being done to victims.
"I think it is fundamentally offensive that they won't take videos down," he said.
"It seems to me any act of violence, any hate speech, should be instantly taken down -- they have the software and the logarithmsto discern (violence) you would think they would be able to remove it."
In a statement, a Facebook spokeswoman said they allowed posts to be shared to condemn or draw attention to an issue like bullying.
"We want to ensure people can express themselves and raise awareness of important issues, but we also want to protect ourcommunity and minimise harm on our platform," she said.
"In the case of bullying and harassment, we allow people to share posts if it was shared to condemn or draw attention to theissue. If that intention is unclear, we will take the content down."
The call comes as eSafety Commissioner data shows a 73 per cent jump in cyberbullying complaints last month compared to the monthly average for 2019.
eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said complaints "have taken on a distinctly COVID-19 flavour, with taunts like 'I hope you get coronavirus and die.'"
Leading mental health researcher Professor Ian Hickie also backed The Daily Telegraph calls for a single anti-bullying policy at all NSW schools.
If you are struggling, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.
Originally published as 'I will make your life living hell': Bullying victim calls for change