A few years ago, when I was in middle school, there was another Instagram account created called "Ladue's Ugliest," and photos were posted there of a lot of my friends and classmates, and so many were humiliated. Later, another Instagram account was opened that had a photo of the alleged Sandy Hook mass shooter as its profile picture. There were vague threats made, but they were serious enough to get the police department and local media involved. We were basically in lock down at our school, with police patrolling the halls. Nobody knew if the threats were real or just a hoax. Thankfully, nothing came of the threats of violence, but there was definitely a lasting effect from the cyberbullying. It caused a lot of chaos in our school. Some of our school teachers and administrators responded by trying to monitor our online activity and suggesting that use of social media should be restricted in an effort to reduce the chance of something like this happening again.
What many adults don't understand about social media is that this how kids socialize, connect, and share with each other. So, if our parents or teachers tell us "just put down the phone," that's like asking a kid to leave the playground or stay away from a party just because a bully might be there. And if we constantly have an adult lurking in our social space, that restricts our freedom to just be ourselves. That's not fair, and that would take away a very important aspect of our social lives. I realized that the only way to reach the students who were being bullied and who were DOING the bullying would be by reaching out to them myself, and by involving others in the fight along the way. That's the inspiration for the "STAMP" acronym, we are STUDENTS TOGETHER AGAINST MEAN POSTS.
I was inspired to start the STAMP Out Cyberbullying campaign to help spread awareness at my own school initially. I started by selling blue rubber bracelets engraved with "STAMP" just at my school with the help of my school counselor. That counselor suggested that I get in contact with the Megan Meier Foundation so that we would have a place to donate the proceeds of the bracelets. I had the honor to meet with Mrs. Tina Meier and hear about the story of her daughter, I was just 13 when I first met Tina Meier, and that was the same age as her daughter, Megan, when she took her own life after being viciously cyberbullied. What I have learned from Mrs. Meier has been invaluable, and she taught me that this is ultimately not just about saving hurt feelings, it is about saving lives. I have loved helping the Megan Meier Foundation by raising funds and attending presentations with them, and I hope this relationship lasts a long, long time.
Through the years, I have expanded the reach of the STAMP campaign by going into other schools & organizations, blogging on other sites, and establishing a social media presence with first a Facebook group, then a Facebook page, and now with this website.
Creating this website has been a goal of mine for a long time. I never really thought I would have enough experience or support to do this, and honestly, I wasn't sure that anybody would listen to me. It has taken a lot of time and effort to get it set up, along with a lot of help from a lot of friends.
I thank you for reading this, my first blog post of my very own website. I invite you to come back and visit often, because like my fight against cyberbullying, this is a work in progress!