Friday, February 3, 2017

Parenting Pointers: Anti-Bullying Initiatives

I recently had a chance to interview two very different people who are trying to stop bullying in awesome ways. 

Akyra Carter is a 2nd grader at California Virtual Academies @ Los Angeles who was frustrated with the bullying she witnessed while doing pageants. She decided to start her own positivity campaign.

-Earlier this year you decide to launch a positivity campaign. Why? It was a plan my manager Jody and I started to help make the internet nicer. A lot of people are mad and fighting about the new president or mad because they like him and other people are posting mean things. I didn't understand why everyone was so mad so I wanted to do something to help motivate online happiness again.
(Addition from Jody) One thing I think people would be surprised by is that between myself and Akyra's Mom we read every single message posted to her. I also will read to her what is trending (what is appropriate) and see what her reaction is and then translate that into what we promote for Akyra online. Not just as her manager, but as someone who has grown close to her and her family I feel inspired to try to involve her and any of my younger clients. This is their world and America we are creating so I think its important to involve them as much as possible and try to explain what is appropriate to what we will be dealing with career wise publicly.
-Did anything surprise you about what happened? How many wanted to jump on...we need to do it longer next time.
-How do you continue to spread positive messages to people around you? I try to talk to people everywhere I go and show support. In my last audition I cheered on the other two girls I was competing against for the role. Imagine how nice the world would be if we lived by the rule "if you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything nice at all. But jody says we have to change the word say to tweet. (laughing)

Julie Kreimann started an anti-bullying club at K12 International Academy where she teaches math.

Why did you start the anti-bullying club?
I started the anti-bullying club because I see bullying as such an epidemic in culture today and I knew that several of our online students were utilizing online schooling because they were bullied in traditional settings. I wanted to provide students an opportunity to discuss proven strategies that prevent bullying, encourage each other to stand up for others, and provide support for students that have been the target of bullying.
What are some things you do during your club meetings?
We do a variety of things during our club meetings. We have had guest speakers, including Jane Clementi. We’ve also practiced role playing situations and how to handle it if you were the person being bullied or an onlooker. We have discussed the causes of bullying and devoted a lot of time to cyberbullying as well as spent time sharing our stories and offering support to one another. Students also requested time devoted to how to handle when the bully is your friend or family member, so we have discussed that.
K12 is an online school - how does bullying look different for online students than it might for those in a traditional school?
Any bullying done online would fall under cyberbullying which is so prevalent in today’s culture because of the anonymity, sense of power, lack of adult supervision, and accessibility. Students in a traditional school experience cyberbullying as well but online students may be more susceptible to it because of the time they spend online. Often students can feel more isolated as well in online school since it often reduces live human interaction and so I try to foster that virtual human interaction with the members of the club.
How can parents and students encourage others to not just stop bullying, but to be actively anti-bullying?
To be actively anti-bullying parents and students alike need to be knowledgeable about the threats of bullying and how many apps and seemingly harmless activities (ie. online video gaming, social media, etc) can lead to harmful bullying situations. Bullying is serious and often leads to life-threatening harm, including suicide and depression/anxiety. Equipped with knowledge we must then be committed to being upstanders, people who stand up to bullying and let the bullies know that behavior is inappropriate and harmful. We should also be prepared to offer compassion and support to those who are bullied. The Tyler Clementi Foundation has produced an excellent Upstander Pledge and Day 1 Campaign that are great resources. We must be willing to share our stories with one another and be honest about the bullying that we have inflicted, endured, or been complicit with.

Hopefully their stories can inspire you to create a kinder community where you live!

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