2022 “Make Kindness Go Viral!” Contest

Attention all students in Tompkins County! Do you take kindness for granted? What does kindness mean to you? What does kindness look like?

Help make the world a better place—and go for a prize—by entering the “Make Kindness Go Viral!” contest in January! You can create original artwork, or you can write a short essay, that expresses your own ideas or experiences regarding kindness.

According to the competition guidelines, participants in the artwork competition are invited to submit an original poster or social media graphic, created in any art medium, illustrating kindness.

For the essay competition, participants must submit an original essay of 500 words or less about their “next act of kindness.”

The contest is open to all students. Awards will be presented in separate elementary school, middle school, and high school categories.

The deadline for submissions is January 17, and the awards will be announced at the virtual 2022 United in Kindness Symposium on January 27.

Go to The Sophie Fund to download the Registration Form today!

The contest is sponsored by the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force.

Tompkins Symposium on Cyberbullying Coming January 27

The Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force announced December 20 that it will sponsor “What to Do About Cyberbullying,” a day-long symposium via Zoom on January 27, 2022.

The task force’s 2022 United in Kindness event will feature presentations by Sameer Hinduja, author and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, and Amanda Verba, chief operations officer for the Ithaca City School District, and other local experts on child development.

The symposium will also include “Tompkins Youth Speak Out,” a breakout session from 7-8 p.m. with students from area schools discussing how they handle cyberbullying. The session will be moderated by Melanie Little, director of Education and Youth Services at the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County.

All sessions are open to parents, students, school administrators, teachers, counselors, social workers, athletic coaches, and resource officers; and staff at after-school programs and independent youth organizations. Registration to attend any of the sessions is available at: https://bit.ly/3y2DjRu. More information about the symposium is available at: https://thesophiefund.org/bullying/.

“While cyberbullying has been a topic of concern for several years, the shift to online learning and further social isolation of our county’s young people as a result of the pandemic has only further highlighted the need for a robust response to issues of online bullying and harassment,” said Bridgette Nugent, deputy director of the Tompkins County Youth Services Department and co-coordinator of the Task Force.

Added Task Force member Celia Clement, a social worker for 32 years in the Ithaca City School District with a focus on developing student-led programs to create kind, inclusive, and safe school communities K-12:

“Youth only tell their parents that they are having social problems online around 10 percent of the time. We need to give students tools to address cyberbullying, how to handle it, how to be helpful bystanders when they witness other youth being bullied, and when to seek help from adults. There are many potential adverse mental health and social consequences, both short term and long term, for the victims, the perpetrators, and the onlookers.”

The task force also announced the launch of “Make Kindness Go Viral!,” a contest for Tompkins County K-12 students to express kindness in artwork or writing. Contest registration forms are available at https://thesophiefund.org/bullying/.  Deadline for submissions is January 17. Awards will be announced during the United in Kindness Symposium.

“The contest invites submissions from all Tompkins County youth to underscore the importance of building and nurturing a community of kindness where bullying is not tolerated,” Nugent said.

The Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force was formed in 2019 by stakeholders from government agencies, community organizations, and schools to explore the prevalence of youth bullying and strategies to combat it.

Kids Getting Bullied: What Adults Can Do

Bullying can have serious immediate and lasting harmful impacts on children, yet 64 percent of those who are bullied do not report the experience to an adult, according to Bailey Huston, coordinator of PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. Huston spoke at “Kindness, Acceptance, and Inclusion in the Age of Covid-19,” a webinar hosted by the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force on October 27 in a program marking National Bullying Prevention Month.

DOWNLOAD: Resources from PACER’S National Bullying Prevention Center

Huston reviewed the four main types of youth bullying: verbal bullying, using words to tease or harass; emotional bullying, such as manipulation, gossip, or exclusion; physical bullying, such as kicking, hitting, damaging or stealing property, or unwanted touching; and cyberbullying, using technology such as social media to hurt or harm.

“We all know that conflict is a normal part of a kids life, and it can be hard to figure out if it is bullying or just conflict,” Huston said. Yet, she added, it is crucial to understand the distinction. She explained that conflict is between individuals of equal circumstance who are not seeking to cause harm, whereas bullying involves a power imbalance where a perpetrator is not concerned about causing harm and may actually be motivated by a desire to control.

“Some common views about bullying are that ‘It’s part of growing up,’ ‘It makes you tough,’ ‘Kids will be kids,’ ‘It’s only only teasing,’” said Huston. “But bullying should not be part of growing up.” In fact, she argued, bullying can negatively impact a child’s education, health, and safety.

Students who are bullied may avoid going to school, which can cause a decline in academic performance and even dropping out, Huston said. Bullying can lead to stomach aches, headaches, and sleep problems, and emotional problems like depression and anxiety, she said. Finally, bullying behavior can result in physical harm to bullies and their targets, she said.

It is important to emphasize, Huston said, that bullying is a behavior, and behavior can be changed. The focus on addressing bullying should be on the behavior, and not the person, she said.

“We avoid using words like the ‘bully’ or the ‘victim,’” she explained. “Behavior like bullying can be changed. It is not a permanent part of who they are. This behavior does not have to define them. When you pull back those layers, we can see there are number of ways we can redirect the behavior in positive ways.”

Bailey advised parents to talk to children about bullying, and support and empower them if they are bullied. She encouraged parents to start a conversation with their children at a young age, and to provide constructive backup if and when they experience bullying. She said it is important for children to know that being bullied is not their fault and not their responsibility alone to stop the bullying. Huston said students should be encouraged to report bullying to a teacher or trusted adult, and advised against encouraging them either to stand up to the person bullying them or to just ignore the bullying.

Huston noted that PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center provides a wealth of educational as well as support materials on its website.

To address a serious bullying problem, Huston suggested developing actions plans. She said a “Student Action Plan” can reflect on the issue and develop steps to change the situation. A “Parent Action Plan” should keep a record of incidents which should include any written information, the date of the event or events and person or persons involved, and their child’s own account of what happened, she said.

Additionally, Huston said, parents should decide on the best approach for taking action—for example, whether to approach school staff, health professionals, law enforcement, or other community members about the problem. She said parents should learn their legal rights in the situation, and know the procedures for reporting a problem. Many schools have specific procedures for reporting incidents, but Huston noted that Pacer’s website provides a template letter that parents can use as well. (Click here to download).

For more resources, click here for The Sophie Fund’s bullying prevention page.

EVENT: “Kindness, Acceptance, and Inclusion in the Age of Covid-19”

October is National Bullying Prevention Month! Join the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force for a webinar next Wednesday October 27 @ 3 pm, “Kindness, Acceptance, and Inclusion in the Age of Covid-19.”

TO REGISTER: Email talbert@tompkins-co.org

Bailey Huston, coordinator of PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, will discuss the definition and dynamics of bullying, types of bullying, roles students play, what adults can do to help, and available resources.

MORE RESOURCES: Go to https://thesophiefund.org/bullying/

DOWNLOAD: Bullying Prevention Resources for Schools 2021

Let’s work together to prevent bullying and its harmful effects on victims and perpetrators alike.

Be Involved: Bullying Prevention Month

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, an opportunity for all of us to learn more about how bullying affects individuals and communities, and about what we can do to prevent it.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services manages the StopBullying.gov website with a comprehensive package of information on bullying, cyberbullying, at-risk children, prevention strategies, and more.

According to the website, a nationwide survey showed that about 20 percent of students ages 12-18 experienced bullying. Nineteen percent of students in grades 9–12 reported being bullied on school property in the 12 months prior to a survey. About 14.9 percent of high school students were electronically bullied in the previous 12 months.

Is bullying a big deal? Yes, considering the effects that bullying can have on both victims and aggressors. In brief, bullying can have a negative long-term impact on mental health, substance use, and it even has links to suicide.

According to StopBullying.gov, kids who are bullied are more likely to experience:

  • Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy.
  • Health complaints.
  • Decreased academic achievement, school participation, and attendance.

Kids who bully others are more likely to:

  • Abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults.
  • Get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school.
  • Engage in early sexual activity.
  • Have criminal convictions and traffic citations as adults.
  • Be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses, or children as adults.

Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center provides comprehensive resources to engage students in social and emotional learning. They include weeklong curricula, discussion plans, activity kits, infographics, videos, art projects, coloring books, role playing, pledge signing, clubs, Bullying Prevention Month activities, and special websites for teens and kids.

The Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force compiled a guide to bullying prevention resources that also includes:

The Tyler Clementi Foundation, which works to end online and offline bullying in schools, workplaces, and faith communities;

Cyberbullying Research Center, which provides up-to-date information about the nature, extent, causes, and consequences of cyberbullying among adolescents;

Stomp Out Bullying, which is dedicated to changing the culture for all students. It works to reduce and prevent bullying, cyberbullying  and other digital abuse, educates against homophobia, LGBTQ discrimination, racism and hatred, and deters violence in schools, online and in communities across the country.

Click here to DOWNLOAD the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force’s Bullying Prevention Resources for Schools 2021 guide.

Go to the Bullying Page on The Sophie Fund’s website for more information about how to recognize bullying and respond to it.