National 16.8.2016 10:30 am

Ballito cyberbully victim recounts downward spiral

Picture: AFP

Picture: AFP

A Ballito girl recalls how she swallowed half a bottle of bleach and hoped for the end.

She laid out her life before herself as she sat alone on the bathroom floor: abuse, family pressure, self-harm, cyberbullying. Only 12 years old, yet it seemed the whole world had given up on her, and finally, so had she, reports, the North Coast Courier.

So she swallowed half a bottle of bleach and hoped for the end. Four years later, the girl from Ballito, in KwaZulu-Natal, now 16, recalls the incident: “All I thought was, ‘Here’s what you all wanted’.”

Her desperate actions were spurred by bullying that started at school but began to follow her home through phone calls and Facebook messages. Cyberbullying can be defined as any action of harassment through electronic means of communication, such as phone calls and social media.

“They (the school bullies) would call me late at night and say I’d be better off dead.”

Long gone are the days of burly school boys stuffing kids into lockers. The cyberbullies’ attacks cause public humiliation, while they are protected by anonymity.

“Nothing could be done about it. It came from a private number,” she said. In addition to phone calls, the bullies also accessed the victim’s Facebook account and spammed her page with inappropriate photos and rude messages. As access to cellphones and the internet increases, so does the risk of children being exposed to cyber attacks.

According to Vodafone’s global survey, one out of five South African teenagers have experienced cyberbullying. Other Ballito victims reported having felt, “useless” or “alone” due to cyber attacks.

Salt Rock clinical psychologist Kerry Roberts suggests how parents may protect their children from cyberbullies. “Be aware of what they are looking at on the internet and place restrictions and boundaries to protect them.”

She also suggested that parents keep an interest in their child’s world so they would not be discouraged if needing to voice any issues. “Encourage your children to think about and speak about the friendship dynamics in their peer group. Don’t downplay your child’s feelings about a peer or friendship struggle,” said Roberts.

“Encourage them to establish an identity for themselves based on such things as their individual personality characteristics, their interests and their aptitudes rather than their social standing in a peer group. Lastly, role model healthy relationships characterised by clear communication that are free from gossip or other hurtful behavior toward others.”

Caxton News Service

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