Powerful portraits empower bullying victims

Updated October 06, 2017 09:20:02

After being bullied for years for her red hair and freckles, Ali Roebuck found it hard to love the features that made her stand out.

But the 12-year-old’s self-esteem has skyrocketed since she took part in an empowering project led by a far north Queensland photographer.

How to tackle cyberbullying:

  • Take responsibility for staying safe online. Engage positively and choose consciously and make sure you pause before posting
  • Learn about and apply privacy controls. Keep passwords safe and do not share them. Set privacy settings and security settings on websites to your comfort level for information sharing
  • Ignore and resist the temptation to retaliate. Do not respond directly to the bully and do not forward them messages
  • Block the person who is bullying
  • Seek help from friends, family, Kid’s Helpline on 1800 55 1800, eHeadspace or Lifeline on 13 11 14

Kate Stoter started the ‘It’s cool to be kind’ project after being bullied herself as a child and seeing her children’s friends going through the same traumatic experience.

The photographer takes powerful, positive images of bullying victims like Ali and shares them online.

“I have strawberry blonde hair and freckles and [bullies would] call me freckle face or ‘ranga’ ever since I started schooling,” Ali said.

“In primary school, I was very insecure about my freckles and my looks and in high school I got bullied about them but the photoshoot made me more confident and made me love my freckles.

“I think it’s good to see something positive on Facebook.”

Ali’s mum Kathy O’Sullivan described the experience as “fantastic” for her daughter.

“Ali is a beautiful child, she’s absolutely beautiful and her resilience astounds me,” she said.

“She’s had days where [bullying has] really gotten her down but she bounces back. I’ve definitely seen a change in her since the photoshoot.”

Teens see themselves in different light

Ali was the catalyst for the anti-bullying campaign, which is gaining momentum on social media.

“I wanted to do portraits of teenagers [being bullied] to make them feel better about themselves,” Ms Stoter said.

“It’s been so great for Ali. A lot of women have [commented on her photo] saying that it reminds them of when they were bullied because of their freckles.”

One young teenager has even taken up modelling since the shoot.

“The girl is 14 in the photos. She was very shy with low self-esteem,” Ms Stoter said.

“I posted them on Facebook and everyone was commenting how beautiful she was.

“Her mum said she was feeling so much better about herself and she has [since] been on the catwalk so I think she will go far.”

The far north Queensland photographer keeps the images as natural as possible.

They are all shot outdoors and she doesn’t go near photoshop.

“This is a young girl from Yarrabah,” she said.

“This girl is incredible, she wants all the other young girls [in the small Aboriginal community] to get out there.

“She is a really good role model for the other young girls there.”

Battling bulling with technology and social media

Bullying expert Dr Margaret Carter from James Cook University said bringing positivity to the online sphere with projects like photographer Kate Stoter’s was important.

“The rise in use of digital communications has increased the potential damage that can be done to an individual’s reputation, career prospects and sense of self-worth,” she said.

“For all the damage a negative digital reputation can do, it is equally true that positive, respectful posts, pictures and participation can enhance reputation.”

She said it was difficult to know whether social media and developing technology was worsening the problem of harassment in schools.

“The seriousness of cyberbullying cannot be underestimated,” she said.

“The literature reports grave consequences in some cases including victims experiencing a sense of fear, self-blame, hopelessness, sadness, anger, embarrassment, and humiliation.

“When the identity of the cyberbully is unknown, as is often the case in online contexts, the sense of vulnerability and bleakness associated with the bullying event is often escalated.”

It’s cool to be kind, to everyone

Ms Stoter suffered trauma from being bullied herself as a child and it was one moment that sparked her interest in helping young people as an adult.

“I was in Year 8 at school and a girl in Year 11 wanted to beat me up outside the tuckshop,” she said.

“I was terrified and I still remember it to this day.

“I was in a pub recently and this [same] girl came up to me and asked how I was and was really friendly.

“I asked her not to talk to me and she started crying. She apologised and apologised and said she was going through a tough time with abuse when we were kids.”

The mother of three said that’s why she wants to reach both victims and perpetrators of bullying with her images.

“I think teaching kids to be kind to those getting bullied and the bullies [is important],” she said.

“It goes deeper. Usually those bullies have something horrible going on at home so that’s what I teach my kids — to feel sorry for them because they are probably going through something tough.”

Topics: bullying, education, social-media, internet-culture, photography, human-interest, cairns-4870

First posted October 06, 2017 08:48:30

Celebrities share awkward teen photos to raise funds for hurricane relief

Posted September 30, 2017 16:36:06

Celebrities have shared photos of their awkward teenage stage on social media to raise thousands of dollars for Puerto Rico’s hurricane relief efforts.

On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, US actor Nick Kroll put out the call for throwback photos.

Host Colbert said he then decided “right on the spur of the moment” to donate money from his Americone Dream Fund to the One America Appeal for every celebrity post using #PuberMe and #PuertoRicoRelief.

He asked Kroll how much he should donate per post. Kroll suggested $1,000, and, after checking the fund’s account, Colbert agreed.

“I want to see bowl-cuts, I want to see brace-faces, a constellation of acne across your T-zone,” he said.

But who counts as a celebrity? Colbert said: “I get to determine.”

So far, photos of varying awkwardness have been shared by celebrities including Reese Witherspoon, Mike Bloomberg, Jimmy Fallon, Debbie Harry, Al Yankovic, John Oliver, Sarah Michelle Gellar and the Backstreet Boys.

Topics: storm-disaster, disasters-and-accidents, television, social-media, actor, arts-and-entertainment, united-states, puerto-rico

What is happiness? That may depend on where you’re from

Posted September 14, 2017 07:00:00

What is happiness to you?

The producers of a new social video hit the laneways of Melbourne to pose that question to 15 people from 15 different countries.

Their answers range from “living your dream” to “baking”.

Brazilian journalist Felippe Canale, who is living in Melbourne for five months to improve his English, made the video with his husband Marlo Moro.

Mr Canale told ABC Radio Melbourne‘s Dave O’Neil that Melbourne was a great city in which to shoot such a video.

“I believe that Melbourne, it’s such a multicultural city, we can hear different accents on the streets everywhere,” he said, adding that he thought Melbourne was a “happy city”.

“I feel that everybody here respects each other and this is amazing, to have the possibility to be who you truly are.”

Happiness changes between cultures

Mr Canale and Mr Moro shot interviews in Melbourne’s laneways and tourist destinations with people from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Colombia, China, England, India, Pakistan, Portugal, Serbia, Thailand, Turkey, the United States, Venezuela and Vietnam.

The interviewees discuss topics ranging from Melbourne’s place as the sporting capital to tensions between the US and North Korea.

“It’s amazing to see how happiness can change between cultures and nationalities,” Mr Canale said.

“For example, the girl from Vietnam, for her happiness it’s to be allowed to live in a peaceful country [such] as Australia.

“A girl from England said happiness for her was fluffy cats.”

More videos to come

Mr Canale said he loved to talk to people and that he planned to make more videos on the streets of Melbourne during his time here.

“I’m the kind of person who if I see an interesting person on the street, I go to this person and I say, ‘Hi, hello, may I introduce myself’.”

He said Melbourne’s graffiti-lined laneways provided a fantastic backdrop for such conversations, adding that their next video would most likely be about Australia’s same-sex marriage debate.

Topics: short-film, documentary, social-media, multiculturalism, human-interest, melbourne-3000

Wikimedia needs your help photographing Australia

Posted September 07, 2017 10:31:01

Australia has for the first time been included in the Wikimedia Foundation’s annual photography competition that seeks images for its online encyclopaedia.

Wiki Loves Monuments is the largest photography competition in the world.

Last year’s event led to more than 275,000 images of historic buildings, monuments and cultural heritage sites being added to the Wikimedia Commons library.

All entrants agree to add their images to the library under a creative commons licence, which means they can be freely used and shared by others as long as the photographer is credited.

“It is creating a visual archive,” said Gideon Digby, president of Wikimedia Australia.

“Without pictures, people don’t realise what they’ve actually lost and how significant some of those places were.”

The competition has been run every September since 2009, but entries from Australia have not been sought until now.

“With our heritage sites, the lists and availability of them are such a mess and spread over so many government departments that it has actually taken a lot of work to get a full data set that we can reliably use,” Mr Digby said.

There is now a publicly available list of sites that competition organisers hope people will use while snapping.

Places range from remote national parks in the Kimberley to the site of the Wave Hill Walk Off in Kalkarindji, as well as the Bondi Beach post office and the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Although there was a small chance of winning a cash prize, most people got involved because they loved photography and recording places for posterity, Mr Digby said.

He is a keen landscape photographer and has contributed around 3,500 photographs to the Wikimedia Commons library over the past 12 years.

“I enjoy the challenge of taking photos and Wikipedia offers you a whole broad range of subjects to look at; you can really get into a variety of things from plants to buildings to scenery,” he said.

And because users of the library have to attribute him as the photographer, he has been able to track when and where they have been used online.

“My pictures have been used all over the world,” he said.

“A photo of the old North Fremantle fuel storage tanks was used in a magazine article in Egypt.

“A photo of the local West Australian Christmas trees ended up in an article about Christmas trees in South America.

“Some of them have been used by local politicians.

“I had Hills Hoist use one of mine for the packaging of one of their clothes line products.”

He said he .hoped there would be several thousand images of places on the list by the time the competition closed at the end of September.

“We have 135 photos so far,” he said.

“Someone from Broken Hill seems to have got every place in Broken Hill. We have stuff from the Bungle Bungles and the Stirling Ranges in Western Australia.

“You get the chance to put your photographs into a collection that will be around for a long time.”

Topics: photography, internet-culture, history, social-media, community-and-society, perth-6000

Why kids love videos of people playing with toys

Posted July 28, 2017 10:29:37

Eight-year-old Evie loves watching YouTube videos of people opening and playing with toys.

“I like it because it’s entertaining and we can see how [the toys] work,” she said — and she’s not alone.

Adelaide-based Come And Play is one of Australia’s most popular YouTube channels.

Its simple videos mainly consist of a pair of hands playing with toys against a plain white background.

Since Bun-Ey and Li Li Ha started the channel in 2015 it has racked up more than 1.1 billion views.

“It’s very surprising, very unexpected,” Mr Ha said.

“We didn’t expect it to become this big.”

Family’s main source of income

Before starting the channel, Mr Ha, who has two young children, was working full-time in IT.

“It was very long hours so I got a bit frustrated because I really wanted to spend time with my kids,” he said.

While Mr Ha and his wife still have part-time jobs, the online videos are now the family’s main source of income.

“We try to aim for the younger kids, so we make them very colourful with a lot of sound effects,” Mr Ha said.

Are they advertising?

Some parents commenting on ABC Radio Melbourne’s Facebook page were concerned videos such as those made by Come And Play amounted to little more than advertising.

“They are paid by the toy companies in kind (free toys) and ad revenue,” Tisham Dhar said.

But Mr Ha said he and his wife purchase all the toys for the videos themselves.

“We don’t have any sponsors that give us toys.”

They follow similar channels to theirs to work out what toys are trending, and order products from around the world to feature in their videos.

“What you see is not always what you find in the shops,” he said, adding that some toys can be difficult to source.

Videos featuring chocolate Kinder Surprise eggs, which contain toys when opened, are among the channel’s most popular, with some gaining several million views within days of being uploaded.

So what’s the appeal?

Melbourne child psychologist and neuroscientist Charlotte Keating said the videos present toys in enticing ways, and were an example of what has been termed “mimetic desire”.

“It’s the idea that desires don’t just depend on the properties of the object, but also on whether the object is seen as attractive to others,” she said.

“In the playground children will run after somebody with the same toy, even if the exact same toy is available next to them.”

Mimetic desire activates regions of the brain called mirror neurons, along with other areas of the brain involved in motivation.

The process results in the release of the chemical dopamine, which is associated with pleasure and reward.

“It can lead kids, when watching these particular videos, to develop anticipatory desire,” Dr Keating said.

“It isn’t actually fulfilled because they don’t necessarily get the object of their desire in the end, but it can fuel an incredible desire and anticipation for these particular toys.”

Not necessarily harmful

Dr Keating said that while more research was needed, there were currently no studies to suggest the videos were harmful to children.

She said the videos could provide parents with “really useful product information”.

“They can see what the toy actually is before they themselves may go and buy it,” she said.

Dr Keating said for some children the videos could “produce an opportunity for the fantasy to continue into imaginary play”.

Some parents commenting on Facebook said they had observed that happening with their own children.

Vickie Fox said her daughters made their own pretend videos.

“The videos on YouTube can be very contrived, but I kind of like that my kids use these videos as inspiration for their own play,” she said.

Jodie Rye said her son was autistic and watching others play with toys had helped with his own imaginative play.

“I not only see no harm in these videos, but also see benefit,” she said.

Limiting screen time important

Dr Keating said the Department of Health recommended children between the ages of two and five have no more than one hour of screen time a day, while older children should have no more than two hours.

She said parents needed to ask whether videos such as these were the best use of that screen time.

“Is it the sort of content that’s supporting language development?”

Mr Ha said parents should not be concerned by the videos, but he urged parents to be with their children while watching videos online.

“Make sure you know exactly what they’re watching because there are a lot of videos out there that are misleading,” he said.

Topics: internet-culture, social-media, children, parenting, kids-games-and-links, melbourne-3000, adelaide-5000

WA’s Deb ‘Spoons’ Perry hits the world stage with cutlery in hand

Posted July 20, 2017 12:32:19

A West Australian musical grandmother has again created international buzz with her unique spoon-playing act.

The world first got a glimpse of the Deb “Spoons” Perry’s ability in 2012 when a YouTube clip of her performing to a Black Keys song went viral, quickly amassing over one million views.

The performance was later aired on Ellen DeGeneres’ TV show and she was recently invited back to the US to perform on a variety show hosted by comedian Steve Harvey.

“I was down in Tasmania when I got the email inviting me to the US,” Ms Perry told the ABC from her Augusta home in WA’s south-west.

“To tell you the truth, I didn’t really know who Steve Harvey was. But I did a bit of Googling and quickly realised this might be a bigger deal than I thought it was.”

The performance and humorous banter between Ms Perry and the high profile host proved a hit and has since been viewed by over three million times worldwide.

“The lead-up to the show was quite an overwhelming experience,” Ms Perry said.

“Once I got up on stage and the music kicked in, it all came together. I even got Steve up and rocking with a set of spoons. Looking back on it, it really couldn’t have gone any better.”

Though a drummer since her early childhood, Ms Perry was introduced to spoon playing in 1972 while watching a band at a bar in Fremantle.

She said it was initially a way of “keeping my rhythm in check while rearing my three kids”.

Ms Perry, now 68, quickly developed a love for the method and began developing her style and act.

Her first big break came as a finalist on variety show Australia’s Got Talent in 2008 before the YouTube clip, set on farmland and surrounded by kangaroos, went viral.

“I had no idea what ‘going viral’ meant but I had all these people saying ‘Your clip’s gone viral, your clip’s gone viral’, and I started to understand what that meant as I watched the views click over,” Ms Perry said.

“That led to all sorts of invitations to perform and it’s gone from there, really. Not bad for a little granny from Augusta.”

Ms Perry, a keen surfer and bird-watcher, uses her fame to inspire young kids to develop an interest in music and the elderly to stay active.

“There’s nothing quite like getting into a good groove with your musical friends in a band, or even just playing by yourself,” she said.

“I suppose it’s like a surfer catching a really good wave. There’s a thrill to keeping exactly in time that is hard to describe.

“I don’t know why, but it gives me a thrill.”

Topics: television, social-media, information-and-communication, music, arts-and-entertainment, augusta-6290, wa, united-states

Sheeran back on Twitter after brief disappearance following Thrones cameo

Updated July 19, 2017 09:59:42

Ed Sheeran’s disappearance from Twitter appears to be short-lived.

The singer’s page has reappeared with a spring clean of old tweets after a brief disappearance prompted speculation that the singer had quit the social media platform after mixed reaction to his cameo on TV show Game of Thrones.

Sheeran’s Twitter account, which boasts 14 million followers, appeared to have been deactivated on Monday (local time).

On Tuesday, it was live again, but many of Sheeran’s 30,000 tweets, including recent posts and comments from fans, had been deleted.

At the time of writing, only three tweets from April 2013 were visible on the singer’s page.

A representative for the British singer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Sheeran was active on Instagram on Tuesday, posting a photo of a cat and a picture from the set of Game of Thrones.

On Sunday he also posted photos and a video of his Game of Thrones cameo.

Sheeran’s guest performance generates mixed reviews

Sheeran’s scene in the HBO medieval fantasy series, in which he played a singing soldier who encountered character Arya Stark, garnered mixed reception from avid Game of Thrones fans.

While Snow Patrol lead singer Gary Lightbody, Coldplay member Will Champion and Sigur Rós have also had guest appearances on the show, it is not known for casting celebrities.

Creators DB Weiss and David Benioff explained at a South by Southwest panel earlier this year the very personal reason why Sheeran appeared on the show.

Mr Benioff said they had tried for years to land Sheeran as a surprise for Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark, Vanity Fair reported.

She is apparently a huge fan.

The 26-year-old singer, whose latest album, Divide, topped charts in the United States and Britain earlier this year, has been vocal about his dislike of Twitter.

He told Britain’s Sun newspaper earlier this month that it was “nothing but people saying mean things” and was trying to “work out why people dislike me so much”.

He also said he had stopped using the platform regularly.

Reuters/AP

Topics: arts-and-entertainment, social-media, internet-culture, information-and-communication, united-kingdom

First posted July 19, 2017 09:06:36