Take action this October. Stop bullying during Bullying Prevention Month
DENVER – October is Bullying Prevention month and the Douglas County School District is encouraging students, families and employees to get educated and take action on the issue.
That is exactly what a group of Douglas County high school students did on Monday, September 22, at the Colorado State Capitol. They gathered for the seventh annual Douglas County Youth Congress, discussing the impact that social media has on students.
“Today we are talking about cyber bullying and how we as young people can fix that,” explained Alex Seballes, a junior at Legend High School.
LEARN MORE: Check out DCSD’s Bullying Prevention page
Teenagers who participated in last year’s Congress chose the topic, which is clearly an even bigger issue today as more and more teens get smart phones or other devices that keep them socially connected day and night.
“[Technology] is great, but it has made life more complicated,” Seballes said. “Every student has a phone now. There is no escape to get away from social media. It is wherever you go.”
With many students carrying devices everywhere they go, it can be hard to escape bullying.
“It can be 1 o’clock in the morning and some people are harassing you,” Seballes said.
“Clearly it is a big issue. It is bigger than I thought,” explained Parker Town Councilmember Josh Martin, who has participated in Youth Congress since it began seven years ago. “My idea of bullying from when I was a kid is far different than what these kids are experiencing now.”
“There are many cases where teens have committed suicide or have caused harm to themselves [because of cyber bullying] so it is a pressing issue. It does seem to get worse as time goes on. It really needs to be an issue that stops now,” Seballes said.
During the discussions, students shared their personal experiences, as well as ideas for how to solve the problem. Martin and other community leaders guided the students through the process, encouraging them and prompting them to think about the costs and challenges of implementing their proposals.
“We’re trying to put together some plans that we can take away and put in front of local government or the school board and say, here is how we’d like these things handled. This is how we’d like them taken care of,” Martin said.
The students then presented their ideas to the entire group of students and leaders, including DCSD Board of Education director Craig Richardson. The student committee focused on cyber bullying suggested implementing a teen court to handle cases of youth bullying, as well as a messaging campaign to help empower students to stop bullying. Under their plan, inspired by Demi Lovato’s campaign to end distracted driving, students would be encouraged to send “#CutTheFuel,” when they see bullying happening.
Seballes says the key to ending bullying is standing up.
“Say something. Nothing is going to happen, if you don’t speak up,” said Seballes. “It takes a lot of courage to get up there and that is totally understandable, but if no one says it, who will?”
Parent of bullying victim encourages students to take action
During the event Douglas County parent Kristina Arellano addressed the students, encouraging them to implement their ideas.
“Don’t let this die in this room,” Arellano said. “This is how change will take place. Laws need to be updated, technology needs to change to protect others from this type of action, and we all need to do our part to be kinder to people that may be struggling.”
Arellano says all three of her children have been bullied and her daughter, Kiana, survived two suicide attempts after being relentlessly harassed online. Before one of the attempts, an anonymous user on Ask.fm threatened her, called her horrible names, said she ‘deserved to die,’ and said that they would help her do it.
“I believe the posts pushed her past the breaking point,” Arellano said.
“I ask, if you see someone being bullied, you go out of your way to be kind to that person. You never know what kind of difference you can make with that kind of outreach,” Arellano said.
Parents: Take action. Prevent bullying.
Families can play an integral role in keeping students safe and preventing bullying, by being involved in their kids’ lives.
Detective Shawn Croce with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office’s Internet Crimes Against Children Unit says many of the crimes she sees could be prevented with parent vigilance.
“We have to stay trained. We have to stay a step ahead,” Cronce said.” Kids are smarter than we are with these devices, because they grew up in this digital era.”
She says it is important for parents to have rules. Devices, including laptops and smart phones should stay in plain sight. They shouldn’t be taken into bedrooms, bathrooms or out to the swimming pool. She also recommends having students turn them over to parents or guardians every night.
“That phone is in my hands at 8:30 at night. The kid may be mad, really mad, because it is almost an extension of their body,” Cronce said. “You are not there to be your kid’s friend. You are there to be their parent first and then their friend.”
She says it is important for parents to monitor their children’s activities. There is software available to make it easier.
“I have all of my children’s text messages visible through my computer at home,” Cronce said.
She says that this type of involvement may seem intrusive, but she would prefer intruding on a child’s privacy rather than being criminally responsible for their misbehavior.
“They’re your children. You are responsible for their behavior until they are 18. They are culpable for their behavior from the age of 10 to 18,” Cronce explained.
When Cronce speaks to students, she reminds them that once something is posted on the Internet, it is nearly impossible to take back.
“I tell kids, if they wouldn’t want it said to you, don’t say it on the Internet. Don’t say it, don’t write it, don’t type it,” Cronce said.