By Sydney Williams, Contributor
More than 160,000 U.S. students stay home from school each day from fear of being bullied, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Bullying can lead to development issues, mental health disorders, sleep problems, school attendance issues and decreased academic performance.
The growing problem and severity of bullying prompted the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) to sponsor a national case study competition challenging college students to create a local campaign encouraging youth and their parents to work together to prevent bullying.
Five journalism students from UNO have partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Midlands to inform youth of the steps they can take to help prevent and report bullying.
The PRSSA Bateman National Case Study gives public relations students the opportunity to create and implement an extensive public relations campaign.
The UNO team’s campaign is called “Be Bold. Be Bright.” With the slogan, “Stop the big O’ bullies,” the message is to lighten up the subject matter of bullying and to be bold enough to talk about it with peers, parents and administrators.
“I really hope they learn to stand up for themselves and speak out about it. You see a lot of kids holding it inside and getting sad and depressed,” said Jordan Yager, project director.
The team is working to spread awareness to members of the Boys and Girls Clubs (a membership of 5,000 members) and help them understand the effects of bullying and how to address it.
The UNO students planned events at three Boys and Girls Clubs where the youth create skits about the types of bullying they see in school and are given tools on how to stop the problem in a fun and safe environment.
“We get together and just chat about issues they’re facing,” said Phil Jarrett, marketing manager for Boys and Girls Clubs of the Midlands.
Learning about the causes of bullying can help prevent this type of abuse, creating a safer environment for Omaha youth.
Many behaviors can lead to bullying, like manipulation, isolation, desire for social status and parental views, said Susan Lamke, training manager at Boys Town.
“Be aware that there are different types of bullies, different types of victims, and different types of bystanders,” Lamke said. “It is important to understand how each of those types may need of variety of strategies to address bullying.”
Many different tactics work for preventing bullying behaviors, but the best are for youth to identify and explain the different forms of bullying and give alternative examples, said Heather Giles Woerner, a psychology professor at UNO.
“Kids can be told ‘not’ to do something, but they need to have a different behavior pattern or model to follow,” Giles Woerner said.
When bullying is left unattended it can rapidly escalate into even more serious violence and abuse.
“I think a strategy that works best for preventing bullying are to have youth think about how someone else feels,” Giles Woerner said. “Children and teens are very egocentric, therefore only think of what they want. When children can take into perspective, this can help see how other people feel.”