Free session on bully-proofing your child is Monday


Published: Friday, February 8, 2013 at 2:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 8, 2013 at 2:31 p.m.

Gainesville parents can learn to "bully-proof" their children Monday at a special event as part of a month-long bullying awareness effort.

"Spot It, Stop It: How to Bully-Proof Your Child" will take place from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at CYM Coffee Co., 5402 NW Eighth Ave. It is free and open to the public.

Kathryn Kvols, founder of the International Network of Children and Families, will host the event, which is being organized by the "Spot It, Stop It … Bullying Hurts Everyone!" initiative.

"We asked her to host this for parents in the community," said Claire Miller, a member of the initiative's campaign team. "She's great, and she has been in the business of psychology for years."

Five University of Florida public relations seniors created the campaign as part of the Public Relations Student Society of America's national Bateman Case Study Competition. Miller, 21; Karla Cobreiro, 22; Kelsey Albina, 22; Alexandra Curbelo, 21; and Evily Giannopoulos, 21, are collaborating with the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding.

"Our main objectives are to increase awareness of the definition, increase awareness of the long-term and short-term effects, and help people find ways to report it and talk about it," Miller said.

"Spot It, Stop It" targets students ages 11 to 19. UF, Gainesville High School, Westwood Middle School, Interface Youth Program, Boys & Girls Club of Alachua County, and Girls Place are participating.

Linda Awbrey, director of activities at GHS, said some students bully others in the halls or at lunch as a way of showing off.

"We are trying to show that it's not cool," she said. "I think things are said and done, and students don't realize that a word or action has a lasting effect."

GHS students are participating in team-building workshops through their physical education classes. The workshops also are being done at Westwood Middle through the after-school program.

Every morning during the month of February, a mantra will play during the announcements, and by participating in various social media campaigns, students can win coupons and gift cards.

Annika Seffer, 16, said she hopes students learn that their actions have an impact.

"I think they're sort of joking, and then a lot of people take it to heart and it becomes a worse situation than people anticipated," she said. "Even if you're not the bully, you can learn to spot it and just stop it because a lot of people don't realize it's happening."

Seffer, a 10th-grade student and chairwoman of the anti-bullying committee at GHS, said cyberbullying is the form of bullying she sees most often.

"In middle school, I was bullied on Facebook, so I feel pretty strongly about it," she said. "It was all really petty, you know, girl-drama kind of things."

Cassandra McCray, regional coordinator for the Interface Youth Shelter, said the youngsters there are very receptive to the effort. As part of the campaign, they participate in one-on-one mentoring and group discussions.

"Our kids here are runaways, truant or ungovernable, and in each of those areas you see bullying as a part of that," she said. "Instead of taking the route to become a bully, (the campaign) will give them another option to avoid continuing to be bullied or becoming a bully."

At UF, the "Spot It, Stop It" team is working with campus organizations to bring awareness to bullying on the college level.

Kelsey Albina, one of the team members, said bullying in college comes more in the forms of harassment and hazing.

"When you get to college, you don't necessarily consider bullying as an issue," she said. "I think the biggest thing about college students is they hear the word bullying and they think it is so elementary or ‘that hasn't happened since I was in high school,' but it is still happening. It just kind of takes a different form."

Public service announcements will be broadcast over the UF radio and TV stations, and will be shown on TV sets in residence halls and in gyms on campus.

As a result of the campaign, Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe declared the month of February "Spot It, Stop It … Bullying Hurts Everyone!" Month.

"We can only have our campaign implemented through the month of February, but while our campaign is ending, this should be a signal to really rise up and take on this cause," Miller said.

For future events and more information on the Spot It, Stop It … Bullying Hurts Everyone! campaign, visit www.spotitstopit.com.

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