Mobile phones have enabled teen bullying to escalate in Australian schools – sometimes with fatal results.
Last September students at Noosa Pengari Steiner High School put their own and other well publicised and confronting experiences into a stage production consisting of six plays that had the capacity audience laughing and crying.
The students wrote the scripts with the help of their then high school teacher, award-winning playwright, journalist and now new Noosa Councillor Frank Wilkie. He felt their work should be captured in a book which he has just published and yesterday he went back to the school to give the 12 students involved their copies.
“I promised we would make it into a book and I’m just following through on the promise,” he told Noosa Today.
The book is called “Cyberteen”, which he describes as a “a comedic drama on cyber bullying which aims to shed light on the dark side of modern adolescence.
“Statistics suggest that if your child has a mobile phone and access to social media, then it’s likely they’ve initiated, witnessed or been the target of cyber bullying and that you will never know.
“Modern technology is brilliant. However, its 24-7, all-encompassing potential has also extended the reach of pack-mentality bullying, often to a lethal degree.”
The book follows newspaper reports that the rate of suicide for Queensland children aged 10-17, already the highest in the nation, has increased since 2004.
He said suicide was the main cause of death for 10-14 year olds in Queensland in 2012-2013. “I know of at least one Sunshine Coast student who committed suicide at school in 2013 after being cyber bullied.
“There were no scripts available on the rise of cyber bullying, so I thought ‘Right, we’ll create one.’ I would love to see the students’ work performed in other schools across Queensland.”
The six plays linked by a narration deliver a graphic insight into the who, what, how and why teens do what they do. None of the scripts includes teens sharing their pain with parents.
“This is a stage play about teens, written by teens and a revelation for any parent who wants to understand the shadow side of the world our children are growing up in,” Frank said.
“For the 13-16 year old, acceptance by the peer group means everything. Exclusion or derision can be devastating. It’s always a shock for parents to discover their child has been affected.
“This play, Cyber Teen, shows the bullies, victims and bystanders in action and asks the audience which one are they?”
Frank said while the subject matter was serious, teenagers were also incredibly resilient and hilarious. “This is about valuing what Noosa’s young people are saying about the world they live in and not the world we adults like to think they live in.
“Their work is insightful, brutally honest but also darkly comic. There were laughs as well as tears when it was performed.
“The main message? One person, one word, one act of kindness or bravery in the face of difficult odds can make a world of difference. A life or death world of difference.”
Cyber Teen is on sale at Annie’s Books at Peregian Beach or on Amazon.