For those of us who grew up back in the days of old-fashioned playground-beatings and lunch-money-robbing, today’s Facebook, Twitter and email-dominated bullyscape seems both intangible and overwhelming. For the kids involved, it is much worse. With the task of combating bullying always in transition, the Waterloo Regional Police Service is looking at new ways to better communicate with the region’s students.
“Stand Up, Speak Out,” a new police-sponsored contest, is looking for poetry, videos, visual art, essays, or any other art media submissions from Waterloo Region students age 18 and younger, on the topic of standing up to bullying.
“There’s always a request from the schools for us to come and do a bullying presentation,” said Constable Cynthia Martin, resource officer and elementary school specialist with the regional police. “We decided: You know what? We’re going to get the kids’ messages, because peer-to-peer messaging is far more impactful than us blabbering at them.”
“Stand Up, Speak Out” was introduced by Halton Regional Police, where it is now entering its third year. WRPS has taken on the Halton program after having success with its own multimedia project, “It’s Your Call,” a 2012 initiative that used art submissions to promote a drug-free lifestyle.
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In her anti-bullying presentations at local schools, Martin has incorporated videos from the Halton contest, and is pleased with the results. “The kids are far more entertained, because they get bully-presentationed out,” she said.
“Stand Up, Speak Out” is not the only recent attempt to combat the changing face of bullying. In November, the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council launched “Project THINK,” which encouraged students to think before posting anything harmful on social media (the acronym stands for, “is it True, Hurtful, Illegal, Necessary, Kind?”). This program, which began at St. Mary’s High School in Kitchener, supplied students with blue elastics to tie around their phones, as a reminder to follow the THINK guidelines.
Even before the dawn of Facebook, it’s fair to say that parents have not been known for their abilities to stop bullying in its tracks. In the social media age, is there anything mom and dad can do?
“For the parents, a lot of the time it’s just making sure they have an open dialogue with their children,” said Martin. “If they don’t even know what they’re doing on the computer, that’s where the kids are getting in trouble. They just need to pay attention to what their kids are doing online, because it’s amazing how quickly things can build online and how instant it is.”
“Parents are a little shocked when their kids are involved with something,” she added.
Rules and regulations for “Stand Up, Speak Out” can be found on the WRPS’ website, www.wrps.on.ca. The deadline for submission is May 26 at midnight.