When 14-year-old Amy “Dolly” Everett took her own life after allegedly being bullied, it struck a wildfire in Australia.
She was not the first child, nor will she be the last, to be fatally injured by the cruel, cold, sometimes just unthinking words of other children.
But something about Dolly – maybe those photos of her trusting eyes, maybe the chord it struck with country parents – felt like the final straw for people across Australia.
Enough is enough.
We were all kids once. Personally, I can remember feeling very much an outsider, but not being bullied.
Now, as I say goodbye to my child each school day, I feel a little stab of fear as I watch her walk away to a part of her life I really know little about. Is she being bullied? Is she a bully?
As parents, we have to have some trust in our kids. But equally, we have to give them the tools to make the right decisions. They need to have a sense of justice.
Many admitted to being bullied. Just as many admitted they might have been a bully.
They need to know the importance of kindness, and learn how to feel empathy for the child who is alone, who grows more sullen, who might eventually strike out at someone else.
Bullying has become a catchphrase among parents, so much so that Friday, March 16 is the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence. A definition has been nationally accepted to differentiate bullying from the odd one-off taunts or unkindnesses of children. Growing up is hard, and not every arrow fired comes from the bow of bullying.
But we just don’t know exactly what happens between children when we aren’t there, and how deep the impact is on each of those children.
Add to this gut-churning anxiety the immediacy of social media. There are a million ways to hurt each other. And it could be flowing like a sewer under our very noses.
Talking to a group of children aged between about 10 and 17 recently helped ease my personal fears. Many admitted to being bullied. Just as many admitted they might have been a bully.
Often these kids are one and the same. They are human. But each one had the same message – it’s not acceptable.
And they advised kids who were hiding the hurt of being bullied to talk to someone they trust. Hug your dog, talk to your mum or dad, or if you can’t do that, seek help. Don’t let others make you doubt yourself.