Uxbridge Girl Guides learn how to tackle cyberbullying

GirlGuiding New Zealand is hosting virtual programme for all guides via Zoom instead of face-to-face meetings. Photo supplied

How would you react if someone says horrible things about you online? What if someone makes you uncomfortable by repeatedly sending embarrassing photos of you to your group chat? Or sends screenshots of a private conversation to your friends without proper context to try and turn them against you?

These are some of the questions that Victoria Pickett, unit team leader of Uxbridge Girl Guides that meets at Vincent St (when not in lockdown) asked guides from age nine to 12-year-olds about cyber safety.

Girls created their own avatars, working through hypothetical cyberbullying scenarios; played online games and learned about computer viruses. One of the leaders even set up a game where Guides had to pretend to be hackers trying to guess her password to demonstrate the importance of password security.

In the wake of Coronavirus Covid-19, GirlGuiding New Zealand is hosting virtual programme for all guides via Zoom instead of face-to-face meetings.

Talking about the cyber safety badges at a time when the world is navigating its way with video chats,  21-year-old Victoria says that ‘Surf Smart’ has always been a part of the guide programme.

Even the Pippin programme (for girls age five to six years) introduces the concept of cyber safety. We knew that girls would have to do their schoolwork virtually and many of them would be interacting with their friends virtually.

Running the programme with 20-year-old Amber Peek, the unit team leaders believe internet safety is the need of the hour.

“It puts students in a vulnerable position as parents are less able to supervise their internet use and provide guidance.”

She says the hypothetical cyberbullying scenarios were all based on situations she had experienced or witnessed in her childhood and teenage years.

“As young leaders, Amber and I are in the unique position of being able to speak about internet safety since we were brought up with the internet.

“All the videos I’ve seen on cyberbullying seem to involve young people receiving horrible messages online from random people at their school for no reason with the general advice being to just not go on the internet.

“But cyberbullying is a lot more complicated than that and trying to avoid the internet as a young person in 2020 can be socially isolating (not so much at 9-12, but definitely as a teenager),” she says.

Uxbridge Girl Guide Lauren Shehean attends the Anzac Day Service on Zoom led by unit team leader Victoria Pickett. Photo supplied

Last week, they held a short Anzac Day Service on Zoom, playing the Last Post, holding a minute’s silence, and having one of the guides read out the Ode of Remembrance.

“We are also learning about rations which seemed relevant to our current situation…and the Guiding International Service teaching them about how adult guides all over the world took action in a time where it was easy to feel powerless.”

Upcoming activities include talent shows and an international night of food and activities but Victoria is particularly excited about a virtual camp-themed Fantasy Monster Hunters.

“We have a lot of fun and educational activities lined up like getting them to explain how they would perform first aid after a dragon attack or which knots they would need to rescue a boy from a Faerie trap,” she says.

GirlGuiding NZ offers programmes to girls age 5-18.

Leaders, girls and parents are being encouraged to post their activities with the hashtag #VirtualGroupGuidingNZ