There are no ‘bully’ and ‘victim’ labels in Rosie and Lucy Thomas’ revolutionary approach. But there is a history of powerful impact. The award-winning dynamic-duo are now launching a new ground-breaking weapon in the fight against bullying and (cyber)bullying – they explain what it is, and why it’s so desperately needed.
We almost accidentally started Australia’s youth movement against bullying 10 years ago. Fresh out of school we had seen how much bullying, hate and prejudice put simply, sucked.
We saw how bullying had not only depleted the light and personality from our peers, but also how people who were mistreated, mocked, mimicked, or made to wear a label actually ended up with less opportunities.
We saw this from day one of high school. On that day, we all seemed to start on a level playing field. But over time, we can remember the people who stopped putting their hands up in class, and as a result, their learning suffered. We saw the people who hid who they were, didn’t take risks, and didn’t have the same opportunities to grow.
We saw this. And we decided to do something about it.
We looked around and realised that no one was addressing the issues that matter to young people in a way that puts the solution in the hands of young people themselves.
So we created PROJECT ROCKIT and started sending young people into schools to empower other young people to step up and challenge bullying – instead of stand by watching.
What happened next we couldn’t have imagined. The impact of the program was remarkable – but most importantly, it inspired us.
Over the years we’ve met so many incredible young people – like this one guy who had us at his school in grade five. He emailed us years later to tell us how much his PROJECT ROCKIT experience still meant to him: “When I met PROJECT ROCKIT, deep down you validated and accepted the humanity of a very lonely, disenfranchised boy. Ten years on, I decided I wanted to extend a helping hand to those who might be struggling with their sexuality in my own little way. And so I got a band of friends together, learned how to shoot films and created a short film discussing homophobia and growing up.”
Our ever-growing team has now delivered face-to-face workshops to over 200,000 students in more than 500 schools across the country.
In 10 years, we’ve seen a lot and we’ve learnt a lot.
When we started PROJECT ROCKIT, (cyber)bullying just wasn’t a big thing people really spoke about yet. Facebook was in nappies. Instagram and Snapchat – non-existent. The iPhone… the iWhat? It’s kind of hard to imagine right?
We have witnessed through our own lives and our work, the emergence of (cyber)bullying as a serious and significant issue for young people. The latest ‘Schoolyard to screen’ research for Telstra found that one in three Australian teenagers have experienced (cyber)bullying. Of those young people, one in five were bullied within the last month.
Alongside the growth of (cyber)bullying, we’ve also witnessed something else. A fear in parents, a panic from educators – and a collective cry for help.
About four years ago we started getting more desperate calls from communities across the country looking for help in addressing this issue. There was one call in particular that resonated – a teacher in remote, red-dirt Western Australia, who was struggling to find a way to bring our team to her school.
It became clear that we needed to expand PROJECT ROCKIT’s impact.
There was a need for a bigger, more sustainable, but youth-driven and strengths-based approach.
We’re all about moving away from the doom-and-gloom, technology-is-the-devil approach. No quick tips and fast fixes. We needed a program that could reach every school and build long-lasting impact.
Technology really is a wonderful part of our lives – and it’s through technology that we can now scale our movement and impact across the country.
With the support of a dream-come-true social innovation grant from the Telstra Foundation, we have poured our passion and experience into building PROJECT ROCKIT Online.
It’s an interactive digital classroom that takes students in years 7 to 9 on a multimedia-rich journey of learning around bullying and prejudice, cyber safety, empathy building and leadership.
Built on the principles of positive psychology, the program was created by young people, for young people, so it’s cool and resonates with students. And it’s backed by researchers and educational design experts so it’s impactful and evidence-based.
Following a 10-school pilot last year, an evaluation of PROJECT ROCKIT Online with Western Sydney University found that 96% of students felt that they could help to challenge bullying after completing the program. Participants also describe enhanced feelings of empathy towards people experiencing bullying, or people who bully.
So it’s a massive year for the PROJECT ROCKIT movement and to help our launch – we’re looking for people to join the mission.
It takes just one person to step up for others to do the same. Join us and Australia’s youth-driven movement against bullying and (cyber)bullying in 2017. #IllStepUp – will you?
PROJECT ROCKIT Online is now available for all Australian schools. Further detail is available at www.projectrockit.com.au/online.
Tackling (cyber)bullying: Rosie and Lucy’s top five tips for parents
- Grow your understanding of young people’s digital lives ahead of any trouble. The more you are aware of your child’s online world, the more likely they will feel comfortable talking to you, especially when they feel uncomfortable.
- Give realistic and safe advice. It is not helpful to tell young people to turn off their device when bullied online (they won’t) or ‘fight back’ (this will make things worse). Instead we recommend sharing socially responsible strategies that you would actually be willing to use yourself.
- Work with the school. When bullying happens online, who’s responsible? Rather than seeking out someone to blame, it’s much more helpful to stay calm and work with the school to establish a clear response to incidents of (cyber)bullying that you can step through together.
- Look for allies. Helping your child to identify their own peer allies can be really important. Allies can provide emotional support when you’re not there, nurture new social connections or even be confident enough to stand up for your child in the heat of the moment.
- Empower the bystander. You can contribute to a better online world by encouraging your kids to support those targeted by bullying. Put your heads together ahead of time to come up with safe and socially credible ways to stand up or reach out to those who need help.
We’ll step up: Backing PROJECT ROCKIT
Telstra shares PROJECT ROCKIT’s philosophy that young people can step up against (cyber)bullying if given the right tools and resources. PROJECT ROCKIT Online was developed with help from a $400,000 Telstra Foundation social innovation grant to create this resource for young people across Australia – no matter their location. Telstra wants all young people to thrive in their connected world, investing in digital citizenship programs to support young people is core to Telstra’s work in this space.