ELK GROVE – Elk Grove Unified School District’s 7-12 grade students are taking a stand. Starting November 5, 2012, high school and middle school students throughout the district are stepping up as a school community to inspire others to challenge and delete cyberbullying through a new campaign — #UnfollowBullying.

#UnfollowBullying is student-created, student-led. The campaign commences with a week of activities and promotions at various school sites. Students will be encouraged to continue the campaign throughout November and the rest of the school year. Activities include asking students to sign a pledge, creating a #UnfollowBullying club, holding discussion group sessions about cyberbullying and many other activities.

Today’s students live in a digital world. #UnfolllowBullying is in recognition that students are the ones who will lead the charge in their online communities to ensure that all students are treated with respect and kindness. The initial idea for a student-led campaign came from the EGUSD Internet Safety Task force. This group of staff, law enforcement and parent representatives felt that the most effective way to reach students is through their peers.

With that in mind, Superintendent Steven M. Ladd, Ed.D., asked his student advisory committee to select a digital citizenship campaign topic, create a name and design a campaign during their four meetings in the 2011-2012 and one in the 2012-2013 school years. Students selected cyberbullying as the topic of focus. They brainstormed a number of campaign names, before selecting #UnfollowBullying.

“Our students are in a great position to help create an urgency surrounding the need to stop bullying,” Superintendent Ladd said. “They have done an excellent job and I look forward to seeing this campaign take hold.”

Although the campaign is student led, it is not limited to students. The #UnfollowBullying campaign is an invitation for all stakeholders to take a stand against cyberbullying. Parents are a key component in the fight against cyberbullying. Parents can help by talking to their students. The following five tips for parents are courtesy of Common Sense Media.

Teach your kids empathy. Nothing drives home a point faster than walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. If your kids truly understand what someone else is going through, they’re less likely to bully someone — or passively witness others being bullied.

Help kids understand the line between funny and cruel. Kids’ online communication is often purposely ambiguous or accidentally cruel — both of which can lead to misunderstandings. If drama starts brewing, ask your kid to call or speak face to face with their friend to clear it up.

Make sure they talk to someone (even if it’s not you). As kids enter the middle school years, their circle of friends and trusted adults widens. Kids need a responsible adult to confide in — their school counselor, their music teacher, even the parent of a friend. Talk to your kid about who they can go to if trouble is brewing.

Help your kid be an upstander — not a bystander. Kids are hesitant to get involved, in case the bully turns their sights on them. But there are ways to allow your kid to work behind the scenes to reach out to the victim, get an adult involved, and prevent more cruel behavior.

Show your kid how to stop cyberbullying. Tell kids not to respond or retaliate. Not feeding the bully can stop the cycle. And — if anything does happen — save the evidence.

#UnfollowBullying is just one component of EGUSD’s efforts to combat bullying and promote digital citizenship for our students. These efforts include on-going workshops for teachers, administrators, and parents and this year’s implementation of Digital Citizenship curriculum at all grade levels.