MKC Updates & New Partnerships

September 9th, 2013 | Posted by Jessica in Thoughts - (0 Comments)

Happy September!

We’ve had a ton going on behind the scenes these past few months and I’m super excited to share these updates with you guys.

1. As you may have noticed in the sidebar on the right, we are now partners with and proudly supporting Submit the Documentary. You may remember that we did a review of the film before it came out last March. If you didn’t get a chance to read our review, you can find it here.  Submit the Documentary, the film, is an extraordinary look into cyber bullying.  Equally as wonderful, the website serves as a fantastic resource, providing information on how to go about reporting cyber bullying. Go to the links to see what I’m talking about and click here to find out about viewing the documentary.

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2. Melissa Wardy, of Pigtail Pals and Ballcap Buddies and Brave Girls Want, recently emailed us to see if MyKindnessCounts.com would be interested in partnering with Brave Girls Want as part of the newly formed Brave Girls Alliance.  This is something we’re super excited about.  The Brave Girls Alliance is a powerhouse think tank and advocacy group of all-stars in the girl power space designed to aggregate our communities and our voices so that corporations, media creators, and retailers can understand how important it is to send out positive, empowering message for and about girls.  Starting on 10/11, the UN’s International Day of the Girl, Brave Girls Want will be flashing girl-positive messages for 7 days on the jumbotron in Times Square. Awesome!

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3.  You may know that while in Connecticut, I served on the Board of GLSEN Connecticut.  For those of you who aren’t familiar, GLSEN is The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network.  It’s a national organization aimed at creating safe schools for all students, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.  What’s really exciting is that Tucson also has a chapter and I’m now serving as Volunteer Coordinator on the Board of GLSEN Tucson.  I’ve been a huge supporter of GLSEN for years, so I’m really excited to get involved in the community here.  I’ve actually already attended a meeting to brainstorm ideas on a Trans-themed workshop for teachers and educators here in the city.  If you’re interested in finding a GLSEN chapter in your state, let me know!

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4. Outside of my work with GLSEN, I also serve on the Board of It Can Happen Here, a volunteer-based movement committed to reducing violence in our country by inspiring others to take action in their own hometowns and on the national level in the areas of bullying, education, gun safety, mental healthcare, parenting and poverty.  I, of course, mostly deal with the issue of bullying, but my interests also fall into the education, mental healthcare, and parenting areas as well.  What’s really exciting is that we’ve created a group called the ICHH Teen Coalition, which as of right now, is a Facebook group.  The ICHH Teen Coalition was established to unite the youth of our nation around the issue of violence prevention.  I’ve been put in charge of leading this group, so if any of you guys are interested in working with us, please let me know or go here and sign up!

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5. MyKindnessCounts.com is now an official “Champion Against Bullying” on PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center‘s website.  You can find us next to the Arizona tab (since we recently moved from CT to AZ).  What’s really cool about PACER is that they’ve organized and listed a bunch of anti-bullying initiatives and activities that are promoting Anti-Bullying Month, October 2013.  We’re really honored to be included with all of these other incredible organizations.  Check out PACER’s website for a ton of awesome resources and information about bullying in the United States.

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I think that’s it for now!  We may have a few more partnerships coming within the next few weeks, so I’ll update as those come to fruition.  If you have any questions, or would like more info, let me know!

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Submit the Documentary

March 8th, 2013 | Posted by Jessica in Thoughts - (1 Comments)

Have you heard about the cyberbullying documentary, Submit the Documentary? Unlike other bullying-focused documentaries that have come out recently, Submit the Documentary focuses on cyberbullying and real problems affiliated with cyberbullying. When the opportunity arose, I was incredibly excited to review the film on MyKindnessCounts.com.

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For many years, the topic of cyberbullying in its entirety is one that I have found incredibly difficult to understand and at times, frustrating.  The Internet often seems like an entirely different world from the one we live in.  It is somewhat unpatrolled and where anonymity can be extremely prevalent.  As Mary Kay Hoal, founder of Yoursphere.com, says in Submit, “If what was happening online was happening in the real world, people would be marching.  There would be social change.”

With 52% of our American youth reporting being cyberbullied from 2011-2012 (Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Health and Human Services, Cyberbullying Research Center), cyberbullying is not an issue that we can afford to dismiss.  From watching the film, I feel more at ease knowing that the creators of Submit are intently aware of this and have spent the past few years talking to experts in the field, as well as families and children, gathering data, and constructing an incredibly well made and informative documentary.  Submit the Documentary is a film specifically designed to inform the country of how detrimental the effects of cyberbullying can be on children and families.

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As Submit points out, cyberbullying elicits behaviors meant to humiliate, torment, and socially exclude from behind some sort of electronic communication technology (Mishna, Saini, & Solomon, 2009). The documentary does an excellent job of highlighting why this is a problem and also how detrimental such behaviors can be for youth – the very people who use technology the most.  As we learn from Dr. Robin Kowalski, Professor of Psychology at Clemson University, emotional bullying can create emotional baggage that kids take with them over time.  This emotional baggage can manifest itself into depression, anxiety, school absences, physical sympotomology, and heightened self-esteem issues.

Cyberbullying is complicated and this theme is prevalent throughout Submit. Quite simply, cyberbullying is an emotionally charged topic for parents as much as it is for kids. Teens are often hesitant to report cyberbullying to their parents in fear that parents will overreact, or take their cell phones and computers away. Teenagers would rather endure the harassment than be on the outs of their social networking world. Dr. Sameer Hinduja, Associate Professor of Florida Atlantic University and the Co-Director of The Cyberbullying Research Center, explains that in his research he has found that many teens being cyberbullied feel alone and lonely, and are consequently desperate for attention, affection, affirmation, and validation. In order to obtain these things, teens are online and text messaging all hours of the day because being online provides them with this instant gratification. Conversely, if a child does tell their parents they are being bullied, parents are often unsure of where to turn to.  Schools often feel they do not have adequate resources to help a problem that begins outside of school.  Law enforcement agents feel overwhelmed by “bigger societal problems”, and as pointed out in the film, lawyers are hesitant to take cases where one child is against another, except in situations where violence has occurred, or the media has gotten involved.

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As a viewer, the burning question I had while watching the film was, “Well, what can we do?”  The makers of Submit provide both suggestions and the opinions of numerous experts in the field.  I highly encourage everyone to see Submit the Documentary.  Not only is the content important, but the film does an outstanding job of breaking down why cyberbullying is complicated, what the experts know, and how we can better handle how cyberbullying is affecting youth.  In order to support Submit and cyberbullying awareness, please go to their website, Facebook page, and Twitter account.

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Meet Ryan Nixon, a 21 year old student from the UK who started the increasingly popular Facebook group, Bullying by Social Networking Awareness. Just started last October, the group already has nearly 3,000 members.

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Taken from the group’s About page,

“BSNA’s aims are to support victims of cyber-bullying by: creating a forum for expression and connection for those afflicted; cultivating self-esteem in those affected; propagating awareness of the topic; and ultimately to elicit a positive response from the relevant parties.”

Before the holidays, I had emailed Ryan because I was interested in how and why he started such a fast-growing group. While I had been a member of the BSNA for some time, Ryan had posted a video on the group’s Facebook page which featured him talking to a round table of bullying experts in Northern Ireland about the need for bullying awareness and why he felt it was necessary to start an action group.  I was blown away by Ryan’s humbleness and poise and wanted to know more about him.

Upon emailing Ryan, he sent me the kindest email back explaining how his own experiences with childhood trauma and being relentlessly bullied were the main inspirations behind his interest in bullying and anti-bullying awareness.  As for the group he created, Ryan was specifically inspired by Amanda Todd’s story, which he explains here:

“I set up Bullying by Social Networking Awareness in response to Amanda Todd.  Amanda’s story broke me as it was so sad.  I thought at the beginning that 30-50 people would have joined by now however, it has exploded.  I am really happy to help people because there wasn’t a service available for me when I was going through the pain.  The response has been amazing and I think it is my time to do something to help prevent it.  I do believe everything happens for a reason, this is my reason.”

I think one of the main reasons I am drawn to Ryan’s story is because of how honest and compassionate he has been with regard to how personal experiences have shaped his current engagements and the way he is choosing to live his life.  I just think the world of him and all the good he is sharing with the world.

Please click here to find the Bullying by Social Networking Awareness Facebook group.

Please click here to following the Bullying by Social Networking Awareness group on Twitter.

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Speak Now

May 8th, 2012 | Posted by Jessica in Your Voices - (0 Comments)

Do you all use Twitter? I love Twitter! :)

I tweet from both my personal account (@jessasimmons) and the My Kindness Counts (@kindness_counts) one. I use it as a tool to read the news, connect with friends, see what other organizations from around the world are up to, etc. It’s also a great networking tool to talk to people about their thoughts on bullying and harrassment and to share the stories you guys send me. :) While many of us use it for good, I have noticed a ton of accounts that tweet really mean things about people they either know or don’t know or about various things going on in their lives. Interestingly, I received an email from a reader on this very issue and they asked that I share it with all of you.

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Bullying is a huge problem in schools of all levels. Bullying, however, does not happen just in a school, but also through the internet. Having prior experiences with bullying in my past, I am very passionate as an adult to advocate as much as I can for anti-bullying. Recently, I came across two Twitter accounts that personally attacked students at a high school. The tweets on this page made fun of individual students from their appearance to clothing. I was appalled that student’s were running accounts anonymously like this online and nothing was being done to put an end to it. To take action and speak up for these individuals who were being cyber bullied, I sent an email to the principal of the school to make her aware of this account. Immediately I got a response back thanking me for the information and the accounts were deleted. I later found out that those individuals were found and disciplinary actions were taken. Bullying, whether it is online or in person, can have a huge impact on someone. If you see something, say something. If you are dealing with these issues yourself, tell someone. Your family and so many members of your school care about you. In the words of Taylor Swift, “If you know how you feel, and you so clearly know what you need to say, you’ll know it. I don’t think you should wait. I think you should speak now.”

How do you think this person handled the situation? I think they did the right thing because by speaking up, the individuals targeted may have been saved from seeing the tweets. Additionally, by intervening, it may have stopped these hurtful tweets from circulating around the internet. Most importantly, by reporting this incident to the principal and the principal finding the individuals who were behind the accounts and implementing disciplinary actions, it creates the impression that a. the school is trying to do their part to stop the harassment and b. that kind of behavior isn’t tolerated. While the principal being aware of the situation doesn’t erase what was said off the internet,  it does make  everyone aware that there are people who care about them and a positive school climate.

PS. Please, please remember that nothing is truly anonymous online. While you or a friend may think that if a name isn’t attached to an account, no one can find the culprit, that is NOT true. IP addresses and login information count and will trace back to you! Don’t get caught up with something that you aren’t ready to face the consequences for!

Sidenote: VERY interesting article related to this issue via USA Today: Library of Congress to Store Tweets Based on Twitter Deal

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Hello! Ok well …

My story: I am now 13 I’ve been bullied since about 5 years ago and I still am being bullied! They call me names such as “6 foot” because I’m tall and “Apple” bc my last name is Appel. They also call me lumberjack or big foot. They torment me every day on the bus at school any chance they get! I started to look down on myself a ton and still do sometimes!

Lesson I learned: I learned to always be myself! To not let others define me! I can be me and be proud now, yes, but I still have those days where I hate myself because of the bullies but I’ve learned to overcome that! Demi Lovato inspired me to stay strong and be me!

My thoughts on current anti-bullying programs: I think that many school programs do not necessarily work because many adult or teachers do not see how seriously bullying effects us. Many teachers or adults have not been bullied themselves so they do not know how much it is effecting us kids and teens , and they do not understand the effects it has on us. Also, they do not put as much attention towards these issues as they need to because they do not see the seriousness of the problems. So, the bullying keeps going on and getting worse.

My thoughts of cyber bullying: Yes, cyber bullying is a huge problem along with person to person bullying. It affects kids and teens just as much. I, personally, think that both happen too much and are a HUGE problems. They both effect kids and teens mental, emotional, and physical lives.

Why I want to help: I want to help because I know how it feels to go through this pain everyday and how lonely you feel… I don’t want others to have to feel the same! I want them to know I’m here for them!

How I try to help: I try to help by making two Twitters against bullying to raise awareness (@HlpPreventBully and @PutAnEnd2Bully) I also made a website where people can post their story and not get judged. I have disabled commenting so that nobody can judge them. They can also find ways to help prevent bullying new bullying stories and photos ( the website is http://togetherwestandtostopbullying.webs.com ) I am also in a club called SADD in my school it stands for Students Against Destructive Decisions and we do many bully awareness games, fundraisers, etc in my school.

I want to help let others know they are not alone! That people like us are always here for them of they need to talk! I believe that together we can end bullying eventually!

Stay strong stand tall and keep your head held high,

Meghan

Please visit Meghan’s website and Twitter accounts if you’re struggling with being bullied or would like to reach out and help others. Thanks for doing all that you do, Meghan. The world is VERY lucky to have a girl like you around! :)

 

Click here to learn more about the organization Meghan is in called SADD- you may already have a chapter in your school!

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Karrie, a mother of a young girl named Elise, and I connected over Twitter. Karrie was actually one of the very first people to help promote the Twitter, Facebook, and website for MyKindnessCounts. Karrie has encouraged and inspired me through her encouraging tweets, kind words, and her courageous battle against bullying for her daughter. With all that she and her daughter have been through, I thought her story might really resonate with other parents who are going through a similar situation with their own children. Thankfully, Karrie and Elise agreed to share there story with us. Before you read her story below, please watch the clip of Karrie and Elise being feature on a local news station:

In November of 2010, my daughter Elise started a long journey no child should ever have to take. It all started on the bus when a few older kids began teasing her. The teasing then led to one of the boys punching my daughter in the face, giving her a black eye. While we are still not sure why this happened, one theory is that this boy liked my daughter and was upset when she didn’t like him back.

Over the course of the next five months, Elise continued to be tormented on the bus. She was tripped, kicked, punched and shoved, and for each incident, I called the school to report what had happened. I was told by the school that these kids would have to sit in the front of the bus and if they tormented my daughter again, they would be kicked off the bus. This promise was not kept. Later in the school year, Elise’s chin was split open from being hit with a seat belt. The school nurse reported this incident to be an accident and told my daughter it was an accident as well. My daughter, terrified by what had happened, just went along with what the adult told her. Elise never rode the bus again that year and nothing was ever done to address the bullying behavior my daughter experienced.

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