October was National Bullying Prevention Month.  A month dedicated to raising awareness of the prevalence and impact bullying has on children of all ages, and how communities can work together to stop bullying and cyberbullying.  A month dedicated to teaching kids to act against bullying by paying it forward with acts of kindness and being part of the solution. Teaching kids to reach out to someone who is isolated, or stepping in when someone is being mistreated.  Bullying is unwanted, repeated, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. While some bullying is easy to recognize, the use of mobile devices and social media has given way to cyberbullying and a whole new dimension of the negative effects bullying has on everyone involved.

Every day, thousands of young people experience bullying from peers at school and neighborhoods, as well as in their own homes through social media and texts.  Bullying should not be a normal part of growing up and does not help kids toughen up.  The effects are devastating to everyone, including school avoidance, lower academic success, loss of self-esteem, lack of concentration, increased anxiety and depression. Bullying hurts and memories of it can often last a lifetime. Kids who witness bullying often feel helpless and guilty about not stopping it.  Educating children about the dangers of bullying and how to deal with it are more important than ever.  The goal is to help kids feel safe, included, and free to be themselves.

Camp Iroquois Springs has a “Zero Tolerance” policy against bullying to create an environment where campers feel safe and comfortable at their summer home.  Camp is a place to build your self-esteem, feel a sense of belonging, and reach your full potential.  A place to be yourself and step outside of your comfort zone.  We encourage campers to do the right thing and operate from a place of kindness.  The Zero Tolerance policy lets campers know that bullying behavior is unacceptable and we are all responsible for stopping it.  Counselors and staff are trained to identify bullying behavior and prevent it from creating an unsafe environment.  Through informative and interactive workshops and discussions, staff is well prepared to keep camp a safe and accepting place for all campers.  Staff is also taught to recognize the difference between rude or mean behaviors and bullying ones.  Kids often don’t report bullying because they are embarrassed or afraid that the bullying will get worse if they speak up.  Counselors are trained to recognize both the obvious and subtle signs and behaviors of someone being bullied and step in to protect the person and the camp community.

Most importantly, camp encourages positive behavior.  Counselors act as role models of inclusion, empathy, and support.  The camp spirit of inclusivity and caring promotes higher degrees of cooperation and kindness. The camp environment is a powerful teacher.  Camp teaches the tools to help kids stand up to bullying by building self-esteem, improving social skills and communication, building leadership, and creating lifetime friendships.  This October, and every month, be a part of the solution by treating everyone with respect, stand up for others and speak up if you or someone you know is being bullied.

“When you’re nice, you’re not bullying people.  But when you’re kind, you stand up against the bully.” Daniel Lubetsky, CEO of KIND LLC.