The Glen Eira Family and Children’s Services, held a parent information night for residents. Parents received beneficial advice from parental expert and educator Sharon Witt.
On a cold, wet autumn night, mothers and fathers congregate in a small room at the Caulfield Park Pavilion.
Some audience members are parents expecting their first child, while others who have children are wishing to gain more information about parenting.
As more people file into the room, expectant parents wait in anticipation of tonight’s guest speaker.
She is a Media Commentator, who speaks about parenting and educational issues.
She has taught secondary school students for more than a decade and is the best-selling author of the “Teen Talk” educational series.
Tonight, on this occasion, Sharon Witt faces an audience consisting of Glen Eira residents.
She aims to educate these residents about children and their interaction with technology and the media.
The Pink, Bubbly, Educator:
Before I take my seat, the presenter greets me with a friendly handshake.
Sharon Witt is vibrantly dressed, in a black dress with a fluoro pink overcoat. Sharon admits that she is feeling a bit under the weather but she certainly doesn’t look it.
She speaks about today’s earlier teaching commitments, which partially included parent-teacher interviews.
Sharon has a bubbly personality. She excitedly informs me about her two children, a fifteen-year-old son and a twelve-year-old daughter. Ms. Witt says that her son is the quiet, reserved type while her daughter is the exact opposite.
After our brief conversation ends, Ms. Witt opens up a PowerPoint presentation on her pink Apple Mac.
Sharon ensures that the small projector on the desk in front of her is properly functioning.
On the left side of the room, there is a table covered with literature she has written.
Sharon opens her presentation. The words “Helping Our Children Navigate Technology and the Media” appear on the projector screen.
The audience becomes deathly silent. When she has her audience’s attention, Sharon Witt begins her presentation.
Sharon Witt identifies the influence of media and technology, as being two of the greatest challenges facing families in the 21st century.
16 billion texts are sent per day, over half a million tweets are posted and there are 3.2 billion interactions on Facebook.
For hours each day, millions of teenagers are immersed in the online world.
“Most of my year 6 students spend on average, 5 hours each night using the Internet.” Sharon Witt says.
However, not every child has positive interactions with their peers online.
Currently, Cyber bullying is extremely prevalent amongst Australia’s youth.
“Children aren’t willing to speak up if they have been bullied online, as they find the experience to be embarrassing” says Sharon Witt.
Sharon Witt recounts a real life Cyber bullying incident, involving a mother in America who sought revenge on her daughter’s behalf.
As a practical joke, the mother impersonated a young boy, to seduce her daughter’s ex female friend.
When she was successful, the mother bullied the girl relentlessly online, resulting in the girl committing suicide.
Audience members have their mouths open, agape, in response to this anecdote. A murmur of dismay is heard throughout the room.
Sharon describes the symptoms of Cyber bullying and ensures to give audience members advice to combat this issue.
“Parents need to initiate the cyber conversation with their children, particularly what to do if or when cyber bullying occurs (in their case)” Sharon Witt says to her audience.
Sharon Witt flicks to another slide.
She begins to discuss body image, the other main focus of her talk.
Sharon stresses how children are bombarded, with images of ‘perfect’ looking celebrities.
“Images retouched on average over 45 times.” Ms Witt says.
“90% of girls think they are fat and that they can’t compete with the celebrities on the magazine covers” Ms. Witt says.
“The messages portrayed about body image within the media, have a negative impact on our children’s self esteem and how they perceive themselves.”
Sharon Witt uses actress Kate Winslet as an example to support her point of view.
Kate Winslet was featured in a photo shoot by GQ magazine.
She was heavily photo shopped by the publication.
However, after the photo-shoot, Winslet explicitly told the media that she doesn’t look like how she is portrayed in the magazine, nor does she aspire to.
Sharon Witt is an engaging speaker. She is extremely passionate about parenting issues and uses hand gestures to emphasise her main points.
Audience members carefully listen to every word that she enunciates.
They are thoroughly engaged by what she has to say and the thought provoking visuals that accompany her presentation.
Sharon concludes her speech.
She is met with an enthusiastic applause.
Immediately afterwards, parents rush up to Sharon and thank her.
As I leave, I overhear an audience member whispering to her friend.
“She was fantastic, I want to attend another of her talks. My children need to hear what she has to say.”