“It’s all about empathy” was the message two teenagers took from an anti-bullying workshop yesterday.
Melbourne councillor and former mayor Oscar Yildiz brought his program Bully Zero Australia Foundation to Blacktown Youth College, speaking at the Hebersham campus on Thursday and Lawson on Friday.
Mr Yildiz said there is a “massive” gulf in understanding between parents, teachers and youth when it comes to cyber bullying.
“Nearly 70 per cent of parents actually have no idea what their kids are doing online,” he said.
“How do we bridge that gap? It’s about communicating, it’s about trying to understand what the needs of the teenagers are. This is their world. The virtual world is their world, and we need to try and embrace it and appreciate it.”
Bullying can stop in under 10 seconds if the bystander becomes the upstander.
Mr Yildiz – himself a teacher – said his message is not against social media, which most people use appropriately. He simply believes parents and teachers need to be more aware and engaged.
“I think the number one thing is for parents to actually ask their kids what they’re doing. Don’t be a micro-manager, but be interested in your child’s online life.”
The Melbourne educator’s main message for teenagers was to be an ‘upstander’ rather than a bystander when witnessing any form of harassment.
“Bullying can stop in under 10 seconds if the bystander becomes the upstander,” Mr Yildiz said.
“The power of one person is massive. Whether it’s online or offline, if they feel unsafe or feel like they don’t want to get involved, they can report it to a teacher or report it to the social media platform.”
Along with anti-bullying and anti-radicalisation workshops, Bully Zero Australia Foundation has a 24-hour helpline (1800 028 559) to help people who are being bullied.
Mr Yildiz said the helpline has being used by countless teenagers, including 93 who were suicidal.
His visit was organised by Blacktown Youth College teacher Josh Wilson, who found the program online while looking for tools to address bullying.
“There’s no respite from cyber bullying,” Mr Wilson said. “Issues can snowball due to the fact it’s a 24-7 platform.”
He said both students and teachers had a lot to learn about the “dark side” of social media, to which teens are particularly vulnerable.
Two 15-year-old students who spoke to the Sun said they believed the workshop would help teenagers think twice about the consequences of bullying.
“It’s about power, social status and being cool,” one youth said. “But you should stand up for others, and put yourself in their shoes.”
Mr Yildiz is taking the program to other schools around western Sydney, including Key College in Merrylands on May 24.