A 13-year-old pupil  committed suicide after she was allegedly bullied by friends on WhatsApp groups since last week. 

According to the Sinoville Crisis Centre, the teen sent her friend an image of herself, which was distributed among pupils on various WhatsApp groups. The pupils mocked and shamed her. It is believed that the learner was criticised about her physical appearance and that she felt humiliated and feared going to school.

“Preliminary investigation on the incident suggests that the  learner was allegedly bullied by a fellow Grade 7 learner, who threatened to distribute video material depicting the deceased learner naked. The deceased learner reported the bullying to her Life Science educator after school on Thursday, 14 February 2019, however, the accused learner had already left school,  The parents of the Grade 7 pupil found her body in her bedroom on Monday.”

Just a week after Teen Suicide Prevention Week, this heart-breaking incident is a wake-up call to all South Africans. Cyberbullying reminds us that as much as technology has improved our lives, it’s also introduced new problems. According to a global survey by YouGov in 2015, South Africa has the fourth highest rate of cyberbullying in the world and the effects can be devastating.

“Parents or guardians can be proactive in ensuring both that their children are protected online, and that they know what to do should they encounter cyberbullies.

Four ways to do this:

1. Talk about it

Talking about it openly will assure your children that you know what cyberbullying is, and will likely encourage them to be open about it to you, should they experience it. Parents also have the ability through conversation to teach their kids what’s funny and what’s cruel online, so their children don’t become bullies in turn. “We find that children don’t always think about the consequences of their actions; they get caught up in the moment, create a post and the next thing they know it’s become viral,” said Heather Hansen from Teenworx.

2. Get involved

Know which social networks your kids use, and if necessary, follow them on social media and conduct occasional spot checks. If you’re not particularly tech-savvy, learn the basics of how that social media platform works.

3. Set limits

Be wary of giving your kids limitless access to internet-accessible devices or leaving them unsupervised for long periods of time. When you do give them a smartphone, talk about your expectations for their behaviour and actions. You have the right as a parent to give them technological devices on condition that you’re able to access the devices at any time, especially when they are younger.

4. Spot the signs

According to the Cyberbullying Research Centre, there are signs you can look out for to determine that your child may be a target of cyberbullying. If he or she unexpectedly stops using their device, appears nervous or jumpy when using their phone, appears uneasy about going to school or outside in general, appears to be angry, depressed, or frustrated after going online, becomes abnormally withdrawn from usual friends and family member, loses interest in the things that mattered most to them, avoids discussions about what they are doing online, frequently calls or texts from school requesting to go home ill, desires to spend much more time with parents rather than peers and becomes unusually secretive, especially when it comes to online activities, they may be being cyberbullied.

Places that can help:

  • Childline’s counsellors are available on 08000 55 555, toll-free.
  • The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag)’s 24-hour helpline is 0800 12 13 14.
  • The South African Police Service (SAPS) — depending on the seriousness of the incident, report it at your nearest police station.”

SADAG Teen Suicide Brochure

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