KINGSTON – Ulster County officials and members of the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center announced a social media campaign, #EndCyberBullying, to raise awareness about the issue and the county law making cyber bullying illegal that was passed in April 2017.
The campaign strategy was presented to the public Thursday and it will include in-person training on cyber bullying and the law for schools, a social media campaign, beginning on Snapchat then broadening to include Instagram, with custom EndCyberBullying filters that can be used to share posts, or access support, as well as connecting the social media aspect to the STOMP-out bullying helpline, Family of Woodstock and The Trevor Project.
Ulster County Executive Michael Hein said the campaign is an effort to get young people and adults to understand there are consequences to the actions they take over social media and that those actions could cause serious psychological harm to a real human being.
“The cyber bullying law that we passed and the work that we’re here to discuss today are all designed, very simply, to be able to make sure that people in our community acknowledge that words matter, that you can impact someone in a negative way; but, you can also make a huge difference in someone’s life,” said Hein.
In terms of helping potential victims, the Snapchat filters available now come with a message at the bottom of the frame: “You do not deserve to be bullied.” People who use the filters are encouraged to share this message and spread it around.
Executive Director of the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center, Jeff Rindler, said their contribution through this year of the campaign will be a presentation to be distributed. Next year, they are looking to hone in on “bystanders,” those who repost attacks on individuals or do nothing at all, but mostly to educate bullies, or potential bullies, by humanizing the targets on the other end of the feed.
“If we can get the impact of what cyber-bullying can be into someone’s head, before they hit send, that, I think, can have a huge difference,” said Rindler.
According to the county attorney’s office, any juvenile charged with cyber bullying will be recommended to the Youth Restorative Justice Program, pending the agreement of both parties involved. If both parties do not agree to the terms, the youth would be charged as a juvenile offender and sent to family court; however, adults charged will receive a misdemeanor and prosecuted in criminal court.