ifIknew is a health initiative for young adults that uses a multi media approach, including social media and in person programs, to address the contemporary issues that impact the well-being, self-image, careers, and relationships of people in their 20's and 30's.

If I Knew is a prevention education project that raises awareness about risky behaviors that can profoundly impact lives.

Filtering by Category: bullying

Pranks that started mean but had a happy ending

If you keep up with what’s trending, you’ll see that internet and face-to-face mean-spirited pranks are backfiring. It appears that 4chan and Reddit members got together and nominated The Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing as a participant in a free music contest.  The school with the most Facebook votes would win a free concert by Taylor Swift.  The principal commented that his students enjoy live music but still withdrew their name from the contest.    The end result?  Swift donated $10,000 to the school as did the Chegg textbook company, Papa John’s, American Greetings and Cover Girl (all sponsors of the contest).  To top it off, VH1’s Save the Music donated $10,000 in instruments!

Another prank that backfired was one that involved 16 year-old Whitney Kropp who was apparently nominated for homecoming queen as a joke.  Not only has she received national support, but local businesses donated her dress and the crowd wore t-shirts that read, "It's not cool to be cruel."  The icing on the cake was when Katie Couric announced that she’s sending Whitney to Disney.

Large groups of people who stand up and stop cruel behavior.  Now that’s a trend we can all like!

Bullies at work

If you thought bullying stopped in high school, think again.  If you haven’t already experienced bullying in the workplace or in a relationship, you most likely will at some time.  Bullies don’t automatically outgrow their patterns of behavior.  It’s easy to laugh at the television show The Office or the movies Horrible Bosses and Office Space as extreme cases.  But bullying does exist at work, and more often than not it happens when no one is watching.  The difference between a boss who is having a bad day and one who is a bully is that a bully repeats the behavior.  This can include yelling insults, gossip, taking credit or sabotage. Here are Dr. Michelle Callahan’s top ten suggestions on dealing with workplace bullies:

1. Don't get emotional.

2. Don't blame yourself.

3. Do your best work.

4. Build a support network.

5. Document everything.

6. Seek help.

7. Get counseling.

8. Stay healthy.

9. Educate yourself.

10. Don't expect to change the bully.

No matter how old you are or whether it is in social circles, relationships, at school or at work, you don’t have to put up with being bullied.

Even the Best of Us Get Bullied

It turns out that even the most unlikely people were bullied in their day. According to a Yahoo article, all kinds of bombshell celebrities were bullied as kids for being different. Both studs from the Twilight series, Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson, were picked on for their passion for acting. Powerhouse singer Christina Aguilera was taunted for pursuing her music career. Her classmates would slash her tires to prevent her from getting to shows and auditions on time. The real kicker: singer, songwriter, and fashion icon, Lady Gaga, was made fun of for being ugly and annoying and for the way she dressed and wore makeup. Guess who’s laughing now? Now, you don’t have to become a famous millionaire to eradicate your childhood and adolescent nightmares. Doing what you love will put you straight on the fast track to success. You’ll find a way to be happy without having to make other people feel lousy. Childhood, adolescence, and even adulthood can be rough when people treat you like you don’t matter. But staying true to who you are, no matter how weird people make you feel about it, allows you to grow into the best possible version of yourself. No bully, young or old, big or small, can take that away.


Q&A: “I’m in a rough middle school, do you know anything that can stop the harassment some of us get for being different than what goes for “cool” around here?"

It is really hard to feel like you are being singled out and picked on.  I think we’ve all been there. But it can help to remember that you actually aren’t out there alone. We need to ask ourselves,  “Realistically, how many bullies are there compared to the number of us who are either the targets or the bystanders?  Don’t you think the rest of us outnumber bullies?  So why do they have all of the power?  It’s time to take our power back. Rosalind Wiseman (author of Queen Bees and Wanabees, which was the inspiration for the movie “Mean Girls”), gives us a great tool to stand up for ourselves called SEAL.  Check it out. Even if you only do one of these steps, you’re successful.  It doesn’t mean that everything is going to magically get better, but if we don’t start standing up to bullies in smart ways, then they win all the time.

In a recent video on her site, Rosalind Wiseman said that the when a bullies choose their actions they have to be willing to take the consequences.  In other words, “choose your actions, choose your consequences.” The same is true for us. What are the consequences of our not standing up for ourselves?  The answer seems pretty obvious, the bullying will probably continue.  So, what might be the consequences when we DO stand up for ourselves?  Well, it could very well stop the bullying or it is possible it may not change their mean behavior at all.  But either way, you’ve done something.  You weren’t the silent victim giving the message that it is okay to treat me this way. Standing up will make you feel better and stronger, giving yourself the respect you deserve.

Finally, don’t suffer alone.  It’s always good to tell others, especially an adult, and it doesn’t have to be your parents.  It can be a counselor, teacher, sister, aunt.  Let them help you decide whether or not to talk to someone in authority at your school.  Telling is not snitching – it’s part of standing up for yourself and for all those other people who are targets.

A group of Windsor Mill Middle School kids put together the video “Stress & Drama” which looks at one of the thousands of situations out there.

The Power of Words

Words can hurt and words can heal.  Most of us have felt the sting of a cruel joke or felt humiliated by teasing.  Bullies seem to know just the right buttons to push and the hurt can last long after the abuse has ended. Once a thick-skinned kid who couldn’t care less what other people thought of me, when middle school started I began to feel a little unsure of myself. I was definitely an easy target – dorky (the first of my peers to get glasses!), clumsy, overweight, and with a mouth full of braces.

Bullies take advantage of a person’s insecurities. In my case, they called me names like “stupid,” “ugly” and “fat.” I tried my best to convince myself that no amount of teasing could ever get to me, reminding myself that “sticks and stones could break my bones, but words could never hurt me.” But unfortunately, this is far from the truth.  Verbal insults make you doubt yourself and your abilities. I became terrified that my personality and physique were inherently flawed. My confidence sank and school became an increasingly poisonous environment. My desperate desire to be accepted led me to become preoccupied with popularity. I went on crash diets in the hope that being skinny would make the teasing stop and begged my parents to buy me expensive clothing so I would look cooler. Even after the bullies matured and the teasing had stopped, I continued to feel self conscious, powerless, and depressed.

It was the kind words of friends and family that helped me overcome these emotional damages. My friends reminded me that I am lovable, friendly and intelligent. Their carefully chosen, supportive words of encouragement made me feel confident and strong. With their support, I was able to pick up the broken pieces and leave that part of my life behind.

My middle school experience taught me firsthand about the power words can have both to destroy and to heal. Words can be the most powerful of weapons and we should all be careful not to misuse the influence that they can have. Even name calling as a joke can be extremely hurtful. Let’s all be mindful of the words we use because we can never underestimate the impact that they might have on other people.

How did (or does) middle school experience affect your self esteem? Did it build you up as a person or hurt you? Write us your comment- we are curious about what your experience was like.

“The Web is What You Make of It”

This is Google Chrome’s new motto. While bullying has and always will exist, our obsession with technology has created a mutant form of this abuse… The H1N1 virus of harassment, if you will: cyber bullying. Cyber bullying occurs when modern communication technology is used to perpetuate a pattern of intentional, hostile behavior, aimed to hurt an individual or a group. With the widespread availability of technology as well as the abundance of social networking that we do, the act of bullying becomes easier and therefore, more widespread. As much as we love Facebook and Twitter, these social feeds create a distance between the bully and the bullied. Any interactions that happen through these venues eliminate person-to-person contact, which makes it easier to say things that we normally wouldn’t- especially not in person. You may have heard, “If you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it online.” It’s important for all of us to be wary of this idea because we’re becoming numb. It’s no longer always clear what will be perceived as hurtful.  And even worse when it is clear what is hurtful, we don’t care. We say it anyway because the Internet makes it easy for us to do so.

But don’t be discouraged. There is hope! Dan Savage, an author, gay rights activist, and c0-parent, has created what’s called the “It Gets Better” campaign.  It Gets Better is a breath of fresh air amidst this bullying culture, and is aimed at a specific audience of victims of homophobic and anti-gay bullying.  While it does not offer concrete resources and tools to effectively deal with bullies (in cyberspace or otherwise), it offers love and support by promoting a positive outlook on life and hope for the future: it DOES get better if you get out there and live the life that makes you happy.  This Google Chrome commercial is uplifting because it not only promotes Savage’s worthwhile message, from which we can all learn, but also provides a way to harness the positive influence of the Internet.  You and I and we all have the power to use the Internet as we please, but do everyone a favor: Have the courage to do something decent. Just one click of that “post” button can hurt one person or it can help a million people. The web is what YOU make of it. So please… make it something good!

Netiquette Tips

With all the worry about online bullying and harassment, it can be good to go through a mental checklist before you send an e-mail, hit the "post" button, or add your voice to the mix of a discussion board.  Re-read what you were going to send and ask yourself:

  1. Are you sending it to the right person?
  2. Is it worth sending?  Don't waste peoples' time with junk or false rumors.
  3. Check for any mistakes or anything that could be misunderstood.  Does it say what you want it to say?  Is it clear?  If something could be misunderstood, or understood two different ways, re-write it or use an emoticon to clear up what you mean.  Be especially careful with sarcasm.  It can easily be misinterpreted in writing.
  4. Don't insult others.  When in doubt, avoid controversial issues.  Don't use all capital letters.  Be careful about bad language.
  5. If you've hurt someone's feelings, find out how and why...and apologize.
  6. If someone attacks you, before you attack back, figure out what's going on.
  7. Don't forward people's e-mails or forward their personal information without permission.
  8. Don't write when you are angry!  Give yourself time to cool off.  If someone's trying to insult you or make you mad, don't give them the satisfaction of an angry reply!  They're just looking for a reaction.
  9. Let an authority figure know if you receive threatening or hateful cybercommunications.
  10. Consider: How private is the message you're sending?  Are you willing to have others read or see it and forward it on to others without your permission?  If no, don't click "send."

These tips and others can be found at Ms. Parry's guide to correct online etiquette.