Kick in guts for online bullies

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Central Otago anti-cyberbullying group Sticks ’n Stones has notched up another national milestone, launching a collaboration with Facebook that will be rolled out in high schools next year.
The ‘‘online advocates’’ partnership, launched in Wellington on Tuesday, will lead to 500 online advocates from more than 40 schools nationwide being trained to support more than 15,000 young Kiwis in metropolitan, regional and remote communities.
The framework for the programme was designed by Central Otago Sticks ’n Stones members, who will co-design the full programme in partnership with other young people from around New Zealand.
Sticks ’n Stones members will then help train the online advocates, and act as mentors throughout the programme.
It will combine in-person workshops with online modules and is designed for 14 to 18-year­olds.
Online advocates will go
on to provide peer-to-peer
support and lead online safety initiatives.
A statement from Facebook called it a ‘‘landmark partnership’’ that brought ‘‘young Kiwis together to explore online safety issues in the real world in a safe, supportive environment’’.
Facebook director
and head of global
safety policy Antigone Davis said trained online advocates would be offered to every high school in New Zealand.
Sticks ’n Stones founder Karla Sanders said the programme would empower young people with skills, online tools and a network of supportive peers to promote positive online experiences and interactions. ‘‘Facebook’s support will enable us to upscale our work and empower hundreds of online advocates to support thousands of young people to stand up to all forms of bullying and protect their friends.
‘‘We believe everyone has the right to be their real selves and that this diversity makes our world a better place to live and thrive.’’
Pupils from Wellington high schools attended the ‘‘online advocates’’ launch and would be some of the first to be trained, but a mix of pupils from all parts of New Zealand were being sought for the programme, Mrs Sanders said.
That mix was vital, and pupils from all walks of life were encouraged to consider getting involved, she said.
‘‘We want a mix of young people who may not normally have opportunities to explore their own leadership skills.
‘‘We want to move on from that group of young people who have constant opportunities for leadership; to open this up to those who may not see themselves as leaders.
‘‘The only criteria we have is that you care about others. If you care about people, then that’s the only thing we need.’’