The purpose of the competition is to raise awareness among teenagers and educate adults to counteract bullying, especially cyberbullying. Cyberbullying includes text messaging, instant messaging, communication via social networking sites, and other electronic communications. Cyberbullying is a quiet enemy, because name-calling and harassment online is not heard or necessarily seen by others. It does not involve a bully physically abusing an individual—it is a far more personal and quiet abuse. Others may learn about it through newsfeeds or by looking on someone’s page, but it is not the overt bullying that comes to mind when you hear of someone being bullied. Furthermore, it never completely goes away; once on the Internet, it is always on the Internet.
“From the Schoolyard to the Internet: How Social Media and Internet Accessibility Has Changed the Landscape of Bullying” is the topic for the JCYLD’s essay contest, whose winners will receive a total of $3,000 to assist with costs associated with the first year of college—books, room, board, and so on. First place will be awarded $1,500 while second and third place will receive $1,000 and $500, respectively. Students have one month to complete their essays, which may be up to five pages in length, must not contain personal stories or real names, and must include potential solutions to cyberbullying. Officers of the JCYLD will judge the essays, and a winner will be announced by May 20, 2014. Criteria includes style, grammar, and originality of ideas. All participants benefit from the project as they explore the prevalence of cyberbullying and how it affects teenagers.
The idea for an essay contest formed last December when the young lawyers met and discussed how to combat cyberbullying in their community. They decided to reach out to the “front line” to get information and possible solutions to the ever-growing problem. High school juniors became the target group to provide such insight, and an essay contest provided the ideal vehicle to gain this information. The competition engages the students and makes them really think about the issues. When competing to earn a scholarship, students begin to ask their friends and do research in order to provide the best information possible and work to discover the most creative solutions. Everyone wins in the essay contest—from the organizers who gain information and understanding to the students who have the chance to win money for school.
The JCYLD expanded its scope by including the community in this project. The Young Lawyers reached out to local vendors to help publicize the competition’s April 1 kickoff. The association hopes that local media outlets will assist with publication of the winning essay and further raise awareness of cyberbullying throughout the community. This bar association took the Bullyproof initiative to another level, tailored it to the community, and expanded its scope. It is through groups such as the JCYLD that the initiative can grow and spread throughout the community in creative ways.
If your affiliate would like to take part in the Bullyproof initiative, you can find more about the program and a toolkit for implementation at http://www.americanbar.org/groups/young_lawyers/initiatives/anti_bullying_initiative.html.