Free, virtual anti-bullying event aims to address the increase in cyberbullying

Health

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — There has been a 70% increase in cyberbullying since the coronavirus pandemic began. Capital Blue Cross is teaming up with the organization Girls on the Run Capital Area in an effort to change that.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, there will be a virtual screening of the film “The Upstanders” that anyone in the community can stream for free.

The documentary is about an hour long, and it examines important issues, including the science behind cyberbullying, why even victims hide it and ways to help.

It looks at something many parents don’t want to know or think about: how to know if your child is a cyber bully.

Capital Blue Cross and Girls on the Run say it’s vital to shine a light on this issue, especially with summer coming up.

A discussion among experts will follow the screening to increase understanding from victim’s, bullies’ and bystanders’ perspectives.

Social media has given bullies 24/7 access to victims, making it hard for some to escape.

“It used to be when you were bullied, you had the refuge of your home,” said Jerry Reimenschneider, a senior public relations specialist at Capital Blue Cross. “You could at least get away from it then, but now, we are connected to our internet devices all the time.”

“50% of girls experience bullying in the form of exclusion from events, birthday parties, the lunch table, and 3.2 million students are affected by bullying each year,” said Gillian Byerly, the executive director at Girls on the Run Capital Area.

The film teaches people how stand up for yourself or someone else and discusses the immense impact it can make to let someone know they have a friend if they need one.

Dr. Amber Sessoms, who used to be the school pychologist at Central Dauphin and who is PA’s School Pychologist of the Year, will lead the converstaion following the documentary.

She says educational events help cultivate safe enironments.

“You often hear people saying, ‘oh that’s just kids being kids,’ and we don’t understand the longterm effects of that and it also helps us to disrupt that narrative that ‘kids are just being kids,’ so then we can start educating and take away the stigma that kids are feeling alone,” said Dr. Sessoms. “So having conversations like this can really add to creating a sense of belonging.”

The Upstanders also stresses bullying doesn’t just end once you leave school. It continues through life, making it even more important for everyone to know how to stop the behavior as soon as they see it.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has several resources related to bullying.

Girls on the Run is hosting a summer camp the week of July 12 that will address these issues through different workshops, conversations and physical activity.

Organizers say self esteem is a big part of this equation. Information about the camp can be found on the organization’s website.

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