What we bought to the International Bullies, Bullied and Bystanders Conference

We had 20 minute to share with the world who we are, why we do the things we do and how we work. It was like trying to fit a water melon into a match box. The purpose of the presentation was to tell others how to engage and empower young people to make a real difference and take responsibility for their actions online and off.

As in the conference Sticks ‘n Stones attended in the Gold Coast, there was a big focus on bullying in young people, both online and off, in school and out. Yet although so much of the content is focused on young people, there are actually very few, if any,  young people involved in the in the development of the data, or implementation of programs. Many of the groups said that they ‘consulted’ with young people. This often meant handing young people their polished final product for them to give feedback on. The problem is often it is too late for any changes to be made, and its also very difficult to point out fault in someone’s work that has already been finished.

 As I heard a lot of attendees use the word ‘consultation’ I encouraged people to come to our presentation and see what we had to say: To be able to understand the world young people live in today, we cannot make assumptions on what we think we see. You can only understand the what it is like to be a young person today, by being one.

For young people to start taking responsibility for their words and actions and start to take an interest in safe online life, the content needs to be relevant to them, and for that content to be relevant it needs to come from them. Consultation is not enough. For our youth to take a stand, they need to be involved in every step of the process, not just commenting on the final product.

 In our presentation, we also spoke about what it was really like working with young people. I believe this can be summed up into a few words: messy, crazy, rewarding and empowering. Trying to work within a teenage schedule is not easy. Our best work is often done between 11 & 12 at night. We always leave things until the last minute. Distractions are very common, and food is one of our main motivators!

But the pros of working with young people and Sticks ‘n Stones being youth led well and truly outweigh the cons. When given the opportunity young people want their voices heard, and we have some pretty amazing ideas. We are real, authentic and understand what it is like to grow up in the world today.

We also spoke about how traditional anti bullying programmes often are a one off assembly or workshop and there is no follow up to this. We believe to effectively change the culture around bullying, a one off doesn’t do that.

There needs to be a continued focus on a day to day basis if this is ever going to change. Sticks ‘n Stones is in our schools everyday acting as role models and are there to give advice to anyone that needs it.

The feedback we have had about the presentation has been exceptional and humbling!  We would love to see more young people attending AND presenting at conferences like this one and for more support to be given to make this happen!

What do you think?

Cheers Ashleigh Smith 😛