Background

The idea was born…

The idea for an anti cyberbullying campaign ironically, was conceived at a serene water’s edge during a Rotary fellowship picnic event in February of 2014. Amidst gently lapping waves, a group of female Rotarians and Partners in Service,with young children discussed the challenges and dynamics of child rearing in a modern, technologically driven world.

Much of the conversational focus was on how the pitfalls and issues that abound today were unheard of during our own childhood.

As our children of various ages, sexes and races frolicked in the surf,the topic turned to bullying and behaviour generally within the schools and how that bullying and negative behaviour was transitioning and worsening as kids got older. Increasingly, as children aged, the bullying was moving from its traditional arena – the playground, to the virtual play areas of the internet and social media.

Of grave concern, as we shared our experiences, was where was it going to end and what would be the impact on the mental and emotional health of children and what would be the long term implications for our society.

Resolved to take action…

That day, we mums were bound by a common idyll of creating a safe, happy, more congenial environment for our kids. On some level we felt compelled to try to recreate the comparatively innocent, less combative environment we were raised in and we felt that if we could generate some awareness, discussion, interest and action on the fast growing issue of cyberbullying we might start to create some semblance of social change in our environment. 

A series of meetings ensued and very early on we sought advice from Child and Adolescent psychiatrist Dr Shirley Alleyne. We wanted to understand the extent of the problem from a professional perspective and confirm its diagnostic existence. Dr Alleyne’s revelations confirmed what we were seeing and hearing in our children’s own environment and worse.

Dangerous online activity by children as young as 8 years old…

Dr. Alleyne advised that the problem was escalating rapidly and was becoming quite prevalent. She also cited that whilst there was much being done on the island to address traditional forms of bullying, no entity or organisation had specifically tackled cyberbullying a comparatively new and pervasive form of bullying. She cited that the need for this was very much there. It was revealed that children as young as eight years old were in counselling due to addictions to online pornography. We learned that children as young as ten years old routinely owned expensive cell phones with no restrictions or parental monitoring. The effects of this were multi dimensional as exposure of young children to all variations of damaging content and exchanges was fast becoming the accepted norm.

A real incident among 10 year olds…

Indeed one of the parents on the committee was able to share a story of the effects of limitless unsupervised freedom on the internet. Such freedom enables children to make bad choices often with disastrous consequences. A pornographic cartoon was shared in a a small classroom chat group comprising ten year olds. Luckily, due to compulsive parental monitoring the video was intercepted by the parents and brought to the attention of the school that had permitted electronic devices on its premises the morning after the video was posted. Upon investigation by school authorities, sadly some of the children had viewed the pornography. What was even more startling and sad was the revelation by the children, that their parents were not checking or monitoring their online activity.

When we realised that dissemination of pornography, cartoon or not, was being executed and viewed by 10 year olds right under our noses, we knew we were a community in crisis.

More stories from our youth…

As we searched for more information on cyberbullying in Barbados and met with different groups of teenagers in various schools we discovered many other disturbing examples of harmful yet seemingly innocent (to them) online behaviours. We found that young girls often trusted their romantic love interests/partners to such an extent that they felt comfortable to send pictures of their naked bodies via the internet. Unfortunately this trust was not deserving in most instances as the average teenage boy can rarely resist the urge to share such photos with a close friend or confidante. Inevitably,the pictures end up being circulated around the school via social media along with hundreds of demeaning comments. We also learned that many teenagers of today are so technologically savvy that they are able to modify pictures in order to embarrass and ridicule someone. The cruelty of the messages which ensue can cause irreparable damage to the victim’s emotional and mental health.

No turning back…

There are many other stories that we all experienced first hand or had heard of through the grapevine and as we grew increasingly alarmed we also became increasingly committed to not only helping to stop it now, but to preventing it as well – especially for the generations to come.

The concept for this campaign is based on the results of our local and global research findings. We urge every parent, grandparent, guardian, teacher, uncle and aunt to peruse our website, share it with friends and family and  most importantly apply the recommendations in your homes and communities. We the campaign committee along with our partners and advisors via this website, will work around the clock to help you protect your children as they navigate this new and exciting yet deeply hazardous 21st century social terrain.