Freshman year of college: I am eagerly sporting a gray hoodie and my favorite pair of ragged sweat pants- the official uniform of college students. I am sitting at a small circular table, surrounded by my three roommates. The smell of greasy pizza is complemented by roaring voices finding their foothold in this new environment of autonomy. I hear muffled giggles from the table next to us, and see a throng of girls hovering over a phone. The laughter seemed to reverberate across the entire cafeteria, as I see a wave of people pulling out their phones. Immediately, I know there has been another post on a popular mobile app that enables students to write anonymous comments about other people. Lately, the mobile site had been full of posts targeting a handful of specific students, whose names I came to know from the chatter revolving around this app.
I was shocked that at a university priding itself on a dogma of “any person, any study”, students were being targeting based on their differences. But, I also thought about how easy it would be to pull up the app on my phone, share a few laughs with my roommates, and go about my day. There were no parents around to scold me, and no teachers threatening to confiscate my phone. But, at the same time, if there are no adults to cast disapproval upon the bullies, who is there to protect the bullied? From a young age, we are taught to involve adults when we witness an act of bullying. But, what happens when we become the adults? And, what happens when adults are targeting other adults? By asking these questions, I began to realize the social responsibility that befell myself, my friends, and my peers.
As a college student, I believe that myself and most my peers are aware of what bullying looks like, and have been given resources to turn to if we find ourselves a victim of harmful behavior. However, in an age where increases in bullying are accompanied by rising numbers of mental illness among children and teenagers, we must act to stop bullying before it occurs. The power of prevention lies within our responsibility to be an active bystander- to take steps to prevent destructive situations, even when we are not the victims.
Three years later, as I enter my last semester of college, I am still baffled by the amount of damaging behavior being targeted towards other students. However, I am confident that by learning to become an active bystander from a young age, we can combat these recent trends in bullying and cultivate an environment where children and teenagers can grow up with confidence, and enter adulthood without fear of discrimination.
To change this reality, we are encouraging all high school students in Orange County, CA to join us for a student-led bullying prevention training taking place next Monday, January 16th, 2017. For more information and to sign-up, please visit: http://whoozin.com/7VH-DR4-T7AE.
Written by Carly Eubanks, Lion’s Heart Team Blogger
Carly is a former Member of Lion’s Heart and currently a Lion’s Heart intern working on our National Bullying Prevention Campaign. She is a senior at Cornell University studying Human Biology, Health & Society, with a minor in Health Policy. Interested in biological/microbiological sciences and healthcare systems, with a passion for research and humanitarianism.