IMAGINE Magazine Autumn 2015 Volume 1 Number 1 - Page 13

Y O U TH E MPOW E RM E NT B ullying in America is on the rise, and social media has made it more accessible and anonymous. According to statistics from market research provider Mintel, 47 percent of girls between the ages of 12 and 17 have been bullied. It’s become painfully clear that this situation issue isn’t going to get better without a concerted effort, and many students, teachers and parents are ready for change. As a mentor for young girls and their parents, I have frequently shared my difficult childhood experiences to help girls overcome challenges and develop self-esteem. I was only five years old when I became a target for bullying in my neighborhood. I remember feeling really scared and anxious all the time. One day I was riding my bike near my house and some teenagers pretended they were going to run me over with their car. Why did they think that was funny? When I was in seventh grade, a group of girls would repeatedly shove me and tell me they were going to beat me up. They even broke into my locker and took my things. It was incredibly stressful for me. I started having stomach aches and frequent nightmares. My schoolwork really suffered too. I never felt I could tell my parents or teachers. I just dealt with it as best I could, hoping it would stop. The bullying never did until my sophomore year in high school. To live under this kind of pressure is too much for many kids and, sadly, some have resorted to taking their own lives as a result. I believe that if bullies really understood the harm and potential consequences of their actions, they would not continue tormenting others. When I was bullied I felt like an outcast, someone no one would ever care about or even knew existed. I feel badly for kids who get bullied, and  I actually feel badly for the bullies because obviously they have problems. Overall its not a good situation,  but it does inspire me to be nicer to others … for sure. – Brad, 15 years old Taking a stand against bullying One of the best ways to create awareness and real change is by helping our youth become leaders against bullying in their schools. The formation of peace groups is proving to be one possible solution that has met with success. A peace group is any organization that promotes compassion and kindness, while discouraging negative behaviors. They can be any size, ranging from a small club to an entire neighborhood effort, complete with the involvement of parents, teachers, coaches, youth pastors, and more. If you know of others who are as concerned about bullying, consider getting together to talk about how things could change. Host a courageous conversation around bullying and invite parents and kids of all ages. Don’t be afraid to go directly to the school with your concerns and ideas. If school administrators and faculty hear that many parents and students are interested in taking part in anti-bullying efforts, they will most likely support your efforts. To bring more kindness and compassion into our environment, we all need to participate in whatever way we can. Many of us are not either bullies or victims but bystanders— those who see bullying happen, ofIMAGINE l Autumn 2015 13