Bullying is an old problem that isn't going away – and some argue for teens it's getting worse. Many adults can remember being bullied while growing up. Now the Internet and social media have added a new layer to the torment, but there are some local teens taking prevention into their own hands.
Like most teens, Penn High School student Keri Richmond spends a lot of time on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. Unfortunately, not every one of the people she encounters is a "friend."
"Somebody made a Facebook group that you could like and it said, ‘Keri Richmond is a beep,’" says Richmond.
While the confident teenager tried to laugh it off, Richmond says it still stung. And this isn't the only example of bullying Richmond has seen online. Mean Twitter accounts targeting her friends and classmates have been popping up all year.
"I think it is a huge problem,” says Richmond. “Now, everybody has an iPhone. Everybody is always on Facebook. Always on Twitter. technology is our generation and that is how people can front things. They get on and they type something mean about something and they don't realize the harmful effects it has on people."
Recently, someone started an anonymous Twitter account called “Penn Love” to combat the online bullying – the user has been tweeting uplifting messages.
"And that person wants to stay anonymous,” says Richmond. “People have tried to contact them and tried to figure out who it is. But they are not doing this for publicity. They are doing this strictly because they want to make a change and they want to see something positive instead of negativity.”
At Oregon Davis High School in Hamlet, a group of students is making their anti-bullying message loud and clear. Chante Pittman came up with the idea for the Bobcat Voice. Pittman and her friend Danielle Holmquest decided to start the group after they had been the targets of bullies. The idea is to discourage bullying and provide an outlet to teens who find themselves a target.
"I just want to be there to help them. Because I was to the point where I was suicidal," says Pittman.
There are only about 300 kids in the school but as soon as they started advertising the anti-bullying group, 24 upperclassmen had joined the ranks.
"I know what to look for and I know how these students feel and I can relate to them and try and make a difference in their lives," says Pittman.
The kids hope to not only make a difference in their school, but they also hope other schools will follow their lead.