West Virginia University Extension Service, in partnership with the West Virginia Legislature, will launch a new educational curriculum and campaign this fall to prevent cyberbullying. The campaign, known as “iRespect,” will be introduced to schools throughout the state.
Community members can now vote for their favorite graphic image for the campaign by visiting www.ext.wvu.edu.
The research-based curriculum is being developed by WVU Extension Service 4-H Youth Development specialists. The curriculum will then be tested with youth focus groups throughout the state.
“We know that to get real results and to change behaviors we need to reach our youth,” said Susan England Lord, WVU Extension Service associate professor for Wyoming County. “Our curriculum is designed to reflect real-world situations and provoke conversations that help get to the root of the problem.”
Susan’s passion for preventing cyberbullying is rooted in the personal stories that were shared by youths from her community and around the state.
“This isn’t a nameless or faceless problem,” she said. “We might be looking at statistics and numbers, but these are real children who are at risk. This is the first step in a long battle to overcome bullying.”
The statistics are startling. According to an Anti-Safe Survey, four out of every ten youths are bullied online each day.
In April 2011, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed Senate Bill 213. The bill made it unlawful for a person to harass or abuse another person via a computer, mobile phone, PDA or other electronic communication device.
In February 2012, House of Delegates member Linda Phillips (D-Wyoming) announced the WVU Extension Service and West Virginia Legislature partnership to more than 700 4-H’ers attending WVU’s Day at the Legislature in Charleston. The 4-H’ers were then able to vote for a campaign name, eventually selecting “iRespect.”
In addition to the curriculum, training programs and a website are in the works.
For more information on youth development programs in the state, contact your local county office of the WVU Extension Service, or visit www.ext.wvu.edu.
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