The 17-year-old Te Kuiti High School student was bullied a bit when he was younger, but at the time he didn’t really see it as bullying.

“You’re getting picked on but back in that environment you just had to get over it.”

Now, he realises bullying can have a long-term effect and he’s doing his bit to help other victims.

“Now you get older you start to see it does come to have a major effect on how they’re going to be in the future, like maybe it could mess with their mental state.”

When he was being picked on, the most common form of bullying was name-calling in person. Now, social media bullying is rife.

” [Bullying] can be a lot more often because of technology and how it’s been progressing. Facebook is used a lot more because of the popularity I guess. ”

Tarshaye and four of his peers are part of a student anti-bullying committee.

Their school is within the Waitomo region, which was among six areas chosen for the Ministry of Social Development’s Social Sector Trials in 2011 – a joint effort by schools, community leaders and Government departments focusing on reducing truancy, offending, alcohol and drug use and improving educational outcomes among students aged 12 to 18.

Cyberbullying was identified as a reason why some kids weren’t turning up or doing well at school.

Tarshaye and his peers look out for students who might be getting bullied and come up with fun activities for students, parents, teachers and the Waitomo community to take part in.

Last year, they organised a debate between teachers and students about cyberbullying, along with a pool party, that attracted at least 150 youth.

They also took advantage of the large crowds in town for the annual muster and organised a sausage sizzle and activities letting people know cyberbullying is not okay.

“I don’t think [cyberbullying] is something that will get eliminated straight away. It takes a long time and you really need to get help,” Tarshaye said.

“It’s pretty difficult to try and take it on yourself.”

He has some advice for students at other schools.

“Always look for help. Go and find someone that’s older than you. Just remember cyberbullying is bullying, only behind a screen, little difference, same result. It’s not a little a problem.

“Keep your head up and smile, ’cause that never hurts.”

The group also want teachers to keep an eye out.

Waitomo social sector trial manager Hilary Karaitiana said representatives from key Government departments – police, justice, social development, education – joined to work out how they could tackle youth crime and truancy in the area. A plan was developed and cyberbullying was identified as a target.

“That’s how kids turn to substances and offending because they start to not be at school, they disengage from positive things so it can be a catalyst for a downward spiral … so we wanted to focus on ‘How do we create young people who actually start to think about what they say and what they do?’.”

Te Kuiti High School principal Bruce Stephens said that five years on from the social trial, it was pretty rare that he had to deal with a bullying issue – although it hadn’t completely disappeared.

“It won’t, I’m afraid, in the foreseeable future go away, it’s just the way it is but we’ve got to learn to manage it and I’m sure that the groundwork that we’ve done over the last few years is going to put our community in a good space to manage it better.”
Source: The New Zealand Herald

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