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Dolly's Message Of Kindness Is More Important Than Ever

Dolly Everett's family say the way to combat cyberbullying is with kindness, after a report sadly revealed a 21 percent rise in cases of online abuse during the pandemic.

Amid the chaos and struggles the coronavirus has presented families with, Dolly's mother Kate Everett is choosing to be kind and compassionate and stay focused on her daughter's legacy.

Warning: This story discusses cyberbullying and suicide.

The Everett family are like many Australians who have had to adjust to a new normal.

Working in the agriculture industry in the Northern Territory, Kate, Tick and their daughter Meg have been as busy as ever.

But what hasn't changed for the Everetts is the grief of losing their daughter Dolly.

Kate said the pain is "something that isn't linear".

Dolly Everett died by suicide in January 2018 after relentless bullying. Image: Supplied

"Nothing prepares you for the loss of a child, and not in the way we lost Dolly," she said.

"In saying that, we're in a good place.

"We've had to juggle and reassess -- not different to the rest of the country."

Dolly Everett was 14 years old when she died by suicide after she was relentlessly bullied by her peers.

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The numbers are horrifying and, as a community, we must take action to better protect our youth.

Her death in January 2018 sparked a national conversation about online bullying and the Everett family went on to establish charity Dolly's Dream in her memory.

"Dolly was such a kind-spirited person, so in essence, that has become our message -- to be kind," Kate said.

The message quickly spread across the globe.

It's a simple message. It's probably never been more important.

It's one mental health experts and leaders are also getting behind for 'Do It For Dolly Day' on Friday, May 8, as the country works to combat a "disturbing" spike in online abuse during the pandemic.

Last month, reports to the eSafety Commissioner rose by 40 percent, including a 21 percent rise in cyberbullying among young Australians as they spend more time online.

The complaints included taunts and nasty comments specifically related to COVID-19, such as multiple reports of children telling others they "hope they get coronavirus and die".

"The vital message of 'Do It For Dolly Day' has never been more important than now, as COVID-19 forces our kids to spend even more time online, both learning and socialising," eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant told 10 daily.

"[It] puts new pressure on parents to manage this screen time, including some unfamiliar apps and platforms," she added.

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The numbers are horrifying and, as a community, we must take action to better protect our youth.

Jessie Mitchell from children's charity Alannah & Madeline Foundation said bullying or confrontations which may have previously taken place face-to-face are now happening more online.

"That can be more challenging to deal with," Mitchell told 10 daily.

"When bullying happens online, it may be in front of a larger audience -- in the sense, it may get viewed or shared by more people.

"There is this sense of a more permanent record being out there, and that can be really distressing for a young person to deal with."

Mitchell added the current climate may mean bullying feels "much harder to escape from".

Dolly Everett is remembered as a "kind-hearted person". Image: Supplied.

But Grant said there is "no cause for panic".

"With a few simple expedients, such as implementing parental controls and understanding the available settings on programs such as Zoom, parents and carers can mitigate the risk their child will be bullied or otherwise suffer harm," Grant said.

The eSafety Commissioner has launched a kit of resources and advice for parents and carers who are dealing with these issues at home during the pandemic.

The Dolly's Dream team has also developed online safety programs and workshops, which are being rolled out in Queensland and the Northern Territory, along with resources on its Parent Hub.

Parents and carers are encouraged to take part in 'The DigiPledge' with their children -- interactive modules that walk families through a range of scenarios that might play out online.

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Grant said parents should look out for common signs of cyberbullying such as a child or teen appearing upset after using a device, becoming withdrawn or unusually secretive about their online activities.

Mitchell encouraged parents to normalise having conversations with their kids about what is happening online.

"As much as you can, make that a part of your daily conversation, creating an atmosphere where it feels normal for the child to tell you if something has gone wrong," she said.

"It's also important to reassure your child you'll work towards an outcome they're happy with and that you won't react by simply taking all of their technology away."

Kate and Tick Everett started charity Dolly's Dream. Image: Supplied

But Grant conceded cyberbullying is a "reflection of deeper social problems" and won't be solved without communicating a message of kindness and tolerance to young people.

“This is why the broader anti-bullying message of Do it for Dolly Day is so important and so timely," she said.

On Friday the Everett family will be wearing blue, as they remember Dolly with an act of kindness. They're asking the community to do the same.

"Two years later, it's not all to do with Dolly," Kate said.

"To have this strength of a community behind us shows that as a world, we still need kindness, so much more now than ever before."

 'Do It For Dolly' is being held on Friday, May 8. The Everett family is asking Australians to take a stand against bullying by wearing blue, sharing an act of kindness and posting it on social media with the hashtag #DoItForDollyDay. 

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

For further information about depression contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.