Earlier this year, two Year 9 students, Zoe Jurgeleit and Lotte Ketcher, took it upon themselves to tackle teen cyberbullying problems. Their solution: The Positivity Project.
The project started in the girls’ digital technology class, where students were given the task to find a problem peers were facing and come up with a solution. The two chose cyberbullying, and The Positivity Project began.
Cyberbullying is a very personal issue for the girls. Both have friends who have been victims of cyberbullying, and Lotte herself was cyberbullied in primary school. The two recognise that cyberbullying is a problem only this generation can fix. “Adults can’t change it. They don’t know how to deal with it because they’ve never been through it themselves,” Lotte said. “Our goal is for students to want to take action and make their own stand.”
Originally, their aim was to raise awareness about cyberbullying and how it affects people. But the girls wanted to expand on that. “We wanted to actually do something, something more than just a poster saying ‘Stop Cyberbullying,’ because we know that doesn’t really work,” Lotte said.
As the idea evolved, it became a way to give people a platform and a reason to talk about their issues with how people are using social media negatively. “I think the main issue is that people don’t want to talk about [cyberbullying], so our main aim is sort of not to stop it from happening, but to make sure people know about it and get people comfortable with talking about it,” Zoe explained.
The project also challenges people to actively show that social media can be used positively, as people often focus only on the negative impacts.
To get their idea off the ground, the two spoke to staff members all over the school: teachers, deans, counselors, Mr Wilson, Mr Olley for a space in assembly and Mr McKinlay for help editing their promotional video. “I was super impressed when two Year 9 girls approached me out of the blue and suggested a project like this,” Aquila House dean, Mrs Cameron said. “It shows real initiative and forward thinking. I thought it was a really great idea.”
The girls first released a promotional video to get students prepared, then took to Instagram to start #positivityweek. Every day challenges such as ‘Post a picture of you and five friends,’ were released to the page’s 280+ followers.
Though the project gained a lot of support, it didn’t achieve quite the amount of participation that the girls would’ve liked. However, they intend to carry on with the project next year, with a few changes. “We’ve got the experience now, that’s the main thing. Now we can know what needs improving,” Zoe said. Next year they plan to open the project up to all schools in Nelson, and on other social media platforms, in order to get more participators.
All in all, The Positivity Project was a success, and is here to stay. “I thought it was great,” Mrs Cameron said. “I think it shows that students often have the best ideas and [staff] should consult them more often than we do.”
By student reporters Maya Jayasena and Victoria Cockerell