A group of middle school students at Excelsior Middle School in Byron are attacking the war of on cyber bullying by encouraging people to play nice in the way we communicate with one another on social media.
The campaign started last year after a student made up a fake profile of a teacher that was negative and staff and students didn’t like it—ultimately that student was suspended for 5-days. But it didn’t end there, students wanted to help prevent it from occurring again in the future.
Excelsior Middle School leadership teacher Kim Karr, co-founded the program called #ICanHelp, says the program is aimed at deleting negativity on social media.
“A couple years ago I had a student come up to me saying a student created a fake Facebook page about a teacher which was going on for a couple of weeks. She turned the kid in and was scared to be picked on,” explained Karr. “I told her we need to speak up on this and come together. So I started teaching that you speak up and say it’s not cool.”
A year later, a student made a fake Instagram account which was removed within a day because students assaulted the account with positive comments–that student was also suspended for 5-days.
“Leadership boys spoke up saying it’s not cool. They set the tone right away saying it’s not cool. Take it down its rude,” explained Karr.
The #IcanHelp program is a movement of multiple people responding to negativity by saying “its not cool” or “remove the post”, or other forms of take it down, or simply by posting something positive to change the tone of a conversation.
“The whole point of the program, its teaching them to show they have the power and they get the concept to have an influence on social media conversations. They do have the ability to change what is cool and not cool. It’s a lot harder to do the right thing than the wrong thing but in the end it feels better,” said Karr.
Morgan, a 12-year-old middle school student at Excelsior shared that she has witnessed people being bullied online and didn’t like it so she wanted to find a solution.
“I was inspired with #ICanHelp because I personally have a social media website and someone commented a rude comment. People talking positively helped me through it (negative comments) and wanted to help other people,” said Morgan. “I feel the program has helped so many people, people we don’t know and stop a lot of negativity from even starting. There is a lot less now and nobody likes negativity.”
Another student, Maya, age 13, stated she dedicates a couple hours per week to the campaign because she has seen negative things get removed and it helps people.
“I personally have seen things being take down. So we went in and blocked it from happening. I saw it help her,” explained Maya. “I saw it through other people being affected by negative things so other people made fan page of positive things to help a girl through it. It cancelled out the negative.”
Maya also explained how she will continue to combat social media negativity as long as she knows about it and believes adults also need to know how to limit negativity and learn to keep it positive.
Kayla, 11, shared that the program is good for people who are having a tough time to get strength in numbers when social media turned negative on someone
“I know people have been bullied. It made me sad for the person being bullied so I wanted to help them,” said Kayla.
Trinity, age 12, explained it’s just a positive program that works.
“I used to see a lot of rude comments and pictures, and after #IcanHelp came along, folks would comment back with a nice comment. I learned if someone is put down, there is always going to be someone lifting them back up.”
Karr’s mission behind the program is to help educate not only her students, but as many people as possible including adults that if you see something negative, they become aware of how to change the tone of the conversation and know what to do.
Karr has spoken to more than 100 of schools and is hoping the program goes national. In fact, over her two week break she spent that time traveling to different schools to speak. She is also going to be speaking at Dozier-Libbery in Antioch on Jan. 27.
“No one knows how to take down these hate sites,” said Karr. “My goal was to get the information out to the students so they can get it out. A lot of schools have been bringing in police officers to tell them the law, that is not doing the much, they need to tell them what to do to stop it. I wanted to give a hear is what you do approach. They don’t want to be told what to do, they want to be told how do you do it.”
The next steps for Karr is to raise $5,500 in funds so they can build a website, trademarking, logo design, print material and giveaways. All of the money donated will go back to the program and help spread the message across the country.
If you would like to donate, you can do so online at www.gofundme.com/icanhelp or send a check payable to:
Excelsior Middle School
(w/ #icanhelp in the memo line)
14301 Byron Highway
Byron, CA 94514
STEPS FOR IMPLEMENTING #ICANHELP
- Post only positive comments
- Respectfully comment, then report anything inappropriate
- Block inappripiate people
- Inform students & adults
- Stop negative talk w/positive
- Follow #IcanHelp online
Mission of #ICanHelp
#icanhelp seeks to create a positive and safe environment on social media for tweens, teens, and adults. We exist to raise awareness of the effects of negative and harmful uses of social media. We seek to foster an online environment in which each social media user can become a “Positive Warrior.”