Written by Rick Karas: firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 23 March 2012 00:00
Name calling, teasing, shunning. Whatever form it takes, bullying has been an unfortunate rite of passage for many students from the first day of kindergarten to high school graduation. It’s been around in some form, most likely, since the first-ever school opened its doors.
As the decades roll on, so does technology, and schools do their best to try and keep up. Bullying certainly has; it has turned into cyberbullying, with putdowns moving from the playground to the PC and now, Smartphones.
Schools have addressed the issue of cyberbullying, but two local teens decided to take the matter a step further. The End To Cyber Bullying Organization (ETCB) is a non-profit started last year by Jericho High School juniors David Zhao and Samuel Lam. It’s mission is to raise awareness of cyberbullying and offer an array of services to both identify and end the problem for good.
ETCB held a kickoff event March 15 at the Jericho Public Library, where team leaders hoped to recruit volunteers from other area schools, and spread the ETCB word beyond the walls of Jericho. Its founders say the message is most effective coming from students themselves, not just parents and teachers.
“We really need a push from the ranks from below rather than on top,” Lam said. “If we can inspire change from below and get all the kids to join together and start a movement to teach kids that cyberbullying is not a cool thing to do, that is how we can ultimately prevent it.”
ETCB hopes to eventually employ psychologists to provide counseling. For now, it’s all about educating teens and parents on the signs someone is being cyberbullied, and even to make someone aware that he or she is cyberbullying and may not know it.
“We need to define a clear line between teasing, fun and bullying,” Zhao said, adding that 85 percent of teens have been bullied online at some point. “When you’re hurting someone’s feelings, are you having fun? That’s the line we have to clear up.”
What are the warning signs of cyberbullying? ETCB founders say parents should be on the lookout for any behavioral changes in their child, as minor as they may be.
“If they’re a cheerful kid and all of a sudden they’re not...there are very subtle signs and we have to make sure to explore all of them,” Lam said.
ETCB volunteers plan to travel to area schools to give presentations to students and faculty, and then hope to turn things over to the school itself, with chapters staying in touch and banding together for workshops and other events, culminating in the first ETCB gala in the fall.
The group is aiming high, with a movement under way to work with elected officials to enact cyberbullying laws on the state and even the federal level. Again, it all starts in Jericho, and with the volunteers of ETCB.
“That’s how we’re going to solve this problem, by you guys spreading awareness, by you guys starting programs at your schools,” Zhao told the prospective volunteers at the library. “That’s how we will start this movement, with power we’ve never been able to achieve before.”