A beautiful schoolgirl, Sheniz Erkan, should be celebrating her 15th birthday next week, but instead her devastated family will say goodbye at her funeral today.
Sheniz took her life on Monday after the torment of being bullied in the schoolyard and cyberspace was too much. A tragic event.
Yesterday, the Erkan family sent a message to parents about the dangers of cyberbullying.
"Cyberbullying has become the new playground," Sheniz's brother Aykut Erkan told 7News. "You come home and it doesn't leave you, it keeps going and going."
Sheniz's father Senol Erkan called on others to take a stand against bullying, and report incidents of harassment before another innocent life is lost.
"It's too late for our daughter," he said. "But we want to send a message to others. Kids, if you know anything about your friends, tell somebody - tell, ring and say.
"I don't want any other parent to feel the pain that we're going through now. I don't want any person to lose their loved one. Please do something about it."
Sadly, today most children have either been bullied, bullied others or witnessed bullying at school.
Director of Cybersafetysolutions, Susan McLean is Australia’s foremost expert in the area of cyber safety and was a member of Victoria Police for 27 years. Widely known as the ‘cyber cop’ she was the first Victoria Police Officer appointed to a position involving Cybersafety and young people.
In 2009, Susan made a submission to a NSW Government Inquiry into Bullying of Children and Young People.
She said: “One of the key areas for concern for society in recent times is the apparent rise of technology to stalk, bully and harass others. Many young people are being subjected to dangerous and inappropriate experiences on the internet.”
“Whereas traditional school bullying occurred within the confines of the school grounds, cyber bullying has no such boundaries.”
In her submission almost three years ago, Ms McLean went on to argue that Government educational programmes needed to be put in place to address the needs of young people, parents, schools and the wider community. She called on the wider community to be made aware of the potential of the vast online environment.
Today, she told motherpedia.com.au, “We're certainly further along the track in knowing what cyberbullying is. People know about it, but we haven’t really done a lot in making inroads into the problem itself.”
“I have no doubt there will be increases in cases like Sheniz Erkan before there is a decrease. I know of four cases of year 12 students taking their lives in October of last year, which didn’t make the news.”
“We need to up the ante and know more about why these children are taking their lives as a result of bullying.”
“Pro-activity is key. Technology is here to stay. Parents need to learn how it works. Schools have an obligation to teach parents. If your child is online they are potentially a victim and an offender.
“Parents looking for information need to be careful where they get their advice from and check the credentials of experts offering advice on bullying,” McLean said.
“Unfortunately, there is no easy fix.”
Our thoughts are with Sheniz Erkan’s family and friends today.
Cybersolutions recommends that if a child is being bullied to:
- Tell your parents, teacher or other trusted adult – don’t stay silent and hope it will go away – it won’t!
- Save and store the emails, chat logs or SMS’s in case of Police investigation
- Block and delete the bully from all contact lists
- Do not respond to nasty emails, chats, SMS or comments – this is what the bully wants so ignore them. (They will need your help to do this)
- Use the ‘report abuse’ button which all websites/applications have. Tell them the problems you are having and they are obligated to investigate
- Have some ‘down time’ without computer or mobile. Give yourself some time away from technology just for a break
- If the bullying continues – delete your current email, msn, hotmail etc and start a new account. Only give your new details to a small list of trusted friends
- Get a new phone number if being harassed on your phone. Report the problem to your phone company and insist on a new number for free
- If the bullying continues get mum or dad to report the bullying to the police. Each state has laws that prohibit online bullying and stalking. You don’t have to put up with it.
Anyone who may be feeling distressed can contact the following organisations for support:
Kids Help Line (1800 55 1800) is a free and confidential, telephone counseling service for 5 to 25 year olds in Australia. http://www.kidshelp.com.au/
Lifeline (13 11 14) is a free and confidential service staffed by trained telephone counsellors.http://www.lifeline.org.au
Other useful resources:
Download the Cyber-safety Help Button, a free Australian Government initiative, designed to keep children and families safe online at http://www.dcbde.gov.au/helpbutton;