Taking a Maple Ridge stand against bullying

Meadowridge student organizes April forum, cyber bullying on agenda

Jessica Jacob in front of a poster for Speak Out

Jessica Jacob in front of a poster for Speak Out

A local teen is taking on bullying, organizing a community forum on the subject next month.

“It’s something I’ve been wanting to do,” said Jessica Jacob, a Grade 10 student from Meadowridge School. “This is an issue that’s affecting everyone.

“It can be emotional for some people, and I wanted to create a safe environment.”

The forum will be held on Friday, April 12 from 5-8 p.m. at her school, at 12224 – 240 St.

Jessica said students now have access to social media at increasingly earlier ages, and young people go online with little or no guidance or advice.

Education is sorely lacking. Some kids who are new to sites such as Facebook are unaware of how privacy settings work, and open their page to anyone and everyone, to view their personal photos and posts.

Online bullying is prevalent.

“My friends have all said it’s something they’ve seen,” said Jessica. “Our generation is the first to have to deal with cyber bullying, and it’s one of the harder types to avoid.”

Being bullied in cyberspace, a student deals with people who use fake names or false identities – “you never know who is bullying you.”

What’s more, the target can’t tell whether seemingly rude comments are meant as jest or to antagonize.

“When you’re talking face to face you can tell whether they’re joking.”

These are some of the issues Jessica wants to address.

“My goal for this forum is to make teens more aware of the actions and effects of bullying, and how they can prevent it.”

She plans to have discussion groups talking specifically about the three issues of the effects of bullying, how to stop it, and cyber bullying.

Jessica has arranged several guest speakers, including local politicians.

“I want to see what government can do.”

Also speaking will be Marcia Harrison, the Kids Help Phone regional director for B.C. and the Yukon.

“I wanted an expert – someone who has seen a lot of cases.”

Harrison, who is based in the Okanagan, is happy to be involved in the project.

“It’s absolutely fantastic when a young student comes forward to shed a light on any issue, bullying or otherwise, that kids face in school,” she said.

Harrison said at least 10 per cent of the Kids Help Phone’s contacts relate to bullying, both in live chat, questions posted online, or calls to the phone line. Some are victims of bullying, some witness bullying and are concerned about what their part in such incidents should be, and there are even calls from those who worry that they show harassing behaviour, or are party to group bullying.

She said 87 per cent of kids have witnessed bullying

Harrison will speak about specific incidents in which her service has helped kids; all calls are anonymous.

“And, I want to make sure they know our service is out there for them,” she said.

To access the help phone dial 1-800-668-6868 or access their services online at kidshelphone.ca.

Jessica hopes to have 80 local teens attend, and has been canvassing Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows schools.

“It’s a lot of work, but I like challenging myself.”