BAY CITY — With the rise of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, schoolyard bullies have a new place to intimidate their victims. Instead of playground insults, students can now inflict damage through a tweet or a post.
But Bay City Central freshmen Madison Marciniak and Kelsey Zimmerman are trying to put a stop to that.
The two have started a club at Central designed to raise awareness of cyber bullying. The club, called The Positive Post Pledge Club, asks students to take time before posting hurtful words about other students on the Internet.
“We’re just trying to stop cyber bullying from going on in our schools because it’s gotten worse throughout the years,” Madison said.
And they don’t just want to let students know. The two are meeting with parents at T.L. Handy Middle School, 601 Blend St., at 8 a.m. on Wednesday to present the effects cyber bullying can have on students. They also plan to give parents tips on ways they can stop bullying from taking place inside their homes.
“We want to inform the parents of it, because that’s where it starts, at home,” Madison said. “A lot of the time, they don’t think their kid is doing it, and so we just want to get everyone involved to stop it.”
The group started from Madison and Kelsey’s own experience with bullying. During their eighth grade year, Kelsey and Madison were on the same volleyball team. Following a loss, Kelsey said, girls would post on Facebook or tweet about Madison’s mistakes during the game.
“I went along with it and started tweeting about Madison too,” Kelsey said.
Madison’s mother Cathy, a teacher at Handy, said she could tell something was wrong with her daughter.
Then teammates began tweeting about Kelsey.
“I realized how bad it made me feel,” Kelsey said. “I didn’t want anyone else to feel like that.”
Kelsey approached Madison’s whole family to apologize and explain her actions.
“It was uncomfortable at first because it was my own daughter, but Kelsey was so adult about it,” Cathy Marciniak said. “She was so accountable and she’s a good kid.”
This year, the girls decided to turn the negative situation into something positive for students, and started the club with the help of Central teacher Jill Moore. In addition to collecting signatures of students pledging to “Think before I tweet,” and “Ponder before I post,” the girls have also passed out wrist bands and reached out to students at the middle school.
Madison said the response has been positive, including emotional reactions from students at Handy.
“We had some kids cry about it because it’s happened to them or they feel bad because what they’ve done,” Madison said.
Cathy Marciniak said the message resonates with students in the middle school because they look up to high school students.
“We’ve talked to the kids at length about it, they don’t really listen to that,” Cathy Marciniak said. “But when their peers, the kids they look up to and the kids in high school come over, they were taken aback by it and immediately wanted to be on board.”
Kelsey said parents have also responded well to their story.
“All the teachers and adults I’ve talked to so far are excited about it,” Kelsey said.
The girls hope to continue the momentum with movie nights at both Central and Handy and Kelsey said the long-term goal of the group is simple: make the Internet a safer place.