Staying safe online

The internet offers children incredible opportunities to connect and collaborate with others. But how do we protect against cyber bullying?

Sticks ’n Stones, a multi-award winning, youth-led bullying prevention organisation announced a landmark partnership with Facebook in October to take a new online safety programme into high schools across New Zealand. The programme will see 500 ‘online advocates’ from more than 40 schools trained by Sticks ’n Stones to reach more than 15,000 young Kiwis in metropolitan, regional and remote communities.

With recent New Zealand studies highlighting education as one of the most critical drivers of change in positive online behaviour, Facebook’s support will significantly scale Sticks ‘n Stones’ existing work in schools to improve teen safety and wellbeing through peer-to-peer support
and learning.

Young people move seamlessly between their online and offline lives so empowering teens to have positive experiences online also means supporting them with confidence and skills to use in everyday life.

One of the issues that has been identified as a key area of concern is cyberbullying. Bullying is not new but technology has certainly changed how it reaches and affects us. Most young people experiencing cyberbullying will also be experiencing bullying in person. This has a massive impact on their confidence and self-belief. What is also worrying is that almost half of young people experiencing bullying are not reaching out for help – they are keeping it to themselves, ignoring it and hoping it will go away.

Understanding the current obstacles for young people to ask for help as well as providing training and support to develop help-seeking skills are two priorities within the programmes. There is also an online help tool developed for young people by young people to offer judgment and jargon-free information if you are dealing with online harm or negativity – icon.org.nz (icon means in case of online negativity).

Providing ongoing support will, over time, help change norms, attitudes and behaviours that accept bullying behaviours (online or off) and is one of the goals of Sticks ’n Stones. A one-off presentation or workshop does not create sustainable change (no matter how inspiring or engaging).

The ‘online advocate’ partnership will harness the power of technology to enable the organisation to spread this work across the country.

Young people can join the ‘catalyst crew’, working closely with Sticks ’n Stones to become leaders in their schools. Learn more and sign up at:
facebook.com/groups/snscatalyst