Together we can keep our children safe

They say that parents are the number one influencer in their children’s lives growing up. While that’s usually true, there still are many other factors that influence teenagers and what they choose to do on a daily basis. Friends, teachers, and even strangers impact our youth each and everyday in school, in public, and online. The online world is a great place. It’s a place filled with online stores, social websites, dating apps, and a ton of other things.

Teenagers are one of the most vulnerable ages groups, because they all have big hearts, they’re all trying to fit in, and they’re all going through an up and down emotional roller coaster. I am a teenager, so I would know. Bullying is a pretty big issue in most schools, and it’s something that’s not addressed in a lot of schools. However, online bullying can be even worse. Words can be said anonymously, rumors can be spread faster, and posts can be made on social media, making fun of other teenagers.

Bullying is something that should not ever be tolerated. There is never a time where bullying should be allowed, in school or online. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the teenage age group. Victims of bullying are two to nine times more likely to attempt suicide.

When is it going to stop?

Teenagers are bullying their classmates so horrifically, that the victims feel that suicide is the only solution to their problems.

If you’re a bully, why?

We are all just trying to move forward one day at a time, toward a successful future. We’re all trying to find happiness and we’re all trying to succeed in a world of so many people.

Talk to your kids about bullying. Even if you think they’d never do it, just make sure. One bullying incident could potentially lead to a teen suicide. I’ve been there and I know how it feels and I wouldn’t want anyone else feeling that way.

As we enter the new year, I urge you all, teens and adults to pay it forward. Instead of being hateful, rude, or inconsiderate, do something nice for someone. Pay for the person behind you in the drive thru, help a child in need, or send a letter to your local children’s hospital. Do something to make another life better.

If we took all of our anger, and used it to help others, we’d create such an amazing community of people. There’s always going to be bad people around, but one by one, we can impact the lives of our youth so they have a great future to live in.

Together, we can keep our kids safe online, prevent bullying, and help to prevent teen suicide. I don’t want other teenagers to have to feel what I’ve had to feel or go through what I’ve gone through.

I am the executive director of the National Youth Internet Safety and Cyberbullying Task Force and I’m grateful to be able to work with kids everyday, so we can create a safer world online for teens and adults.

If you’re a teen and you’re struggling, just remember that you’re not alone. I know you may feel like it, but you aren’t. I know it’s scary to reach out for help, but it’s so worth it in the end.

If you need help, please reach out for it. Don’t try and get through tough times alone. There’s people like me who would help anyone given the chance. If you’re feeling suicidal or if you’re struggling with bullying, consider contacting the Crisis Text Line so a counselor can help you. They can be reached by texting “START” to 741-741. We can all make a difference in our community.

It’s been said: a negative mind will never give you a positive life. Think about that the next time you want to bully someone else.

I hope everyone has a great holiday season this year. Happy New Year! Make the best of 2018!

Alexander Kovarovic lives in Schenectady

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