I was rung by a reporter in Christchurch this morning about this article in an Australian newspaper:
Bullying and “cattiness” spurred by social media has contributed to a surge in the number of parents deciding to teach their children at home, according to one of the State’s biggest homeschooling bodies.
Latest Department of Education figures show 2192 students were registered for homeschooling last year – an increase of 303 students on the year before when homeschool participation increased by just 83 students.
Homeschool WA director Stuart Chapman said about a third of families who signed up for homeschooling programs had done so because of a bullying incident.
Most of those students, he said, were teenage girls in years eight to 10 who were subjected to a different type of bullying to boys.
“With boys it’s easier to tell because it’s bruises but with girls it’s cattiness,” he said. “It’s much harder to tell and it’s much more psychological with girls.”
Since starting in 2012, the organisation has grown from 129 students to about 300 students and another 100 are expected to join this year.
Mr Chapman said social media had given bullies another way to target victims and contributed to the increase.
“The trouble with bullying with social media is you can’t get away from it,” he said. “It carries on after school.”
Herne Hill mother Cindy Banks said bullying was the main reason she had pulled her two teenage sons out of schools in favour of homeschooling.
She said her 15-year-old son Matthew had been targeted at primary school and the bullying continued into secondary school before spilling on to social media.
Ms Banks said bullies used online gaming and chat sites to send abusive messages to her son.
“As soon as that happened I cut it down,” she said. Ms Banks said Matthew had been a “different person” since he started homeschooling but she was still concerned about the use of social media. Bullying online, she said, was difficult to detect when teenagers wanted to keep their internet privileges.
“It’s easier to shut that down if your child lets you know, but some kids, they don’t want to lose Facebook so they keep it hidden,” Ms Banks said.
Perth tutor Richard Hunt-Smith says he is fully booked with homeschool families, the number seeking help increasing steadily over the past two years.
He says bullying on social media is one reason parents decide to homeschool and most families limit their child’s use of the internet as a result.
However, Department of Education acting director of Statewide services Eirlys Ingram said any increase in homeschooling numbers could be attributed to lowering the compulsory school age and increase in overall student population.
“The department has found no evidence to support the claim bullying has become more of an issue in the past year and has led to an increase in students dropping out of school,” Ms Ingram said.
From the Smiths: