The parents of Dolly Everett, a 14 year old girl who took her own life after being relentlessly bullied, have created a very powerful and evocative advertisement to address the issue of cyber bullying. The advertisement, directed by 15 year old Charlotte McLaverty, depicts a teenage girl on her phone in her home. She sits on the couch, lays in the bath and eats dinner with her family, her mobile phone in hand in every scene. At every moment of her day, an invisible girl in a school uniform throws stones at the child. She has a large collection, and in some scenes, she hands the stones to other invisible children so they can join in throwing them at the girl. With each stone’s throw; each message on her mobile phone, the girl flinches in pain but remains silent. The ad closes with the words, “are your words doing damage?”
The ad made me cry.
Our daughter is 12 and she is convinced that she is the only person at her very large public high school who doesn’t have a phone. I’m trying to hold off on allowing her to have one for as long as possible, but earlier this year I did say yes to an Instagram account. I said yes because her wonderful cousin who lives in Mozambique has it and I want them to stay connected in every possible way. I didn’t realise until too late that I was saying yes to a whole new world of comparison, pressure and pain.
The Instagram deal we have is that I can look at her account whenever I like. I have her account linked on my phone so I can switch to hers at any time. You might call that an invasion of her privacy but I call it keeping her safe. She does not have a developed pre-frontal cortex. She is not yet fully capable of planning, complex cognitive behavior, expressing her personality wisely and moderating her social behaviour. Heck, I’m 39 and I’m still learning these things!
So I regularly go into her messages and read them. And I say things like, “hey, when you said that, you sounded harsh.” I am coaching her in this important life skill and I am keeping her close. I never want my kid to be the one who throws those cyber stones and I want to deflect them when they come her way.
I am not naive about a 12 year old’s ability to deceive. I’ve told her that if I find out she has started a second account, she will lose all social media privileges altogether. I can make that call because I am her mum.
I make no apologies for being so strict. If she’s going to swim in the rip, she needs me to be her lifeguard. To be honest, I’d rather she just sit on the beach.
Please check out the ad by ‘Dolly’s Dream’. It’s a sad reality.
You can also support them and hear about their events via their FB page: Dolly’s Dream: https://www.facebook.com/dollysdreamaustralia/
I’m pretty sure us parents of teens need all the help we can get.