Countering the scourge of cyber bullying is a big task, but an increasingly vital one.
In the Greater Shepparton district there would be no organisation better equipped to tackle the challenge than Word of Mouth, which has been dealing with youth issues at a grassroots level for 15 years.
Bullies are nothing new — they have been with us since cavemen started swinging clubs.
What is new is the relentless nature of the 21st century bully.
Where once a young person might retreat to the sanctuary of the family home, social media means there is no escaping the insults and hurtful comments and images.
By partnering with the police, Word and Mouth members bring a level of seriousness to the subject that perhaps young people might not realise.
Cyber bullying is after all, a crime.
The issue was recently highlighted by the tragic death of Northern Territory teenager Amy ‘‘Dolly’’ Everett, a former face of Akubra, who took her own life after online bullying.
About one in four Year 4 to Year 9 Australian students reported being bullied every few weeks or more often in a national study in 2009.
In May, Children’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said there had been a 60 per cent increase in cyber bullying cases in the past year.
Unfortunately, the social media platforms used by bullies have failed to effectively tackle the issue and cannot be held accountable, so it is up to grassroots groups such as Word and Mouth to try and educate young people of the risks.
While the means of delivery may have changed, the behaviour at the root of the problem remains the same.
Lack of empathy, narcissism, fear and ignorance lie at the heart of bullying.
We are confident Word and Mouth, with its past and present army of volunteer young people, is more than capable of delivering the right message.
By going into schools and talking face to face with peers, the Word and Mouth army’s message can be delivered with accuracy and personal truth.
We wish them well, and we hope the vital message gets through that cyberspace is a double-edged sword with equal potential for good and harm.
If this article has raised any personal issues, phone Lifeline on 131144 or Kids Helpline 1800551800.