Maria and Anna Cragg know what it’s like to be bullied. As students in elementary and middle school, they faced tormentors and took action to get themselves out of that situation.
Today, as Maria enters her final year of high school at Sidney’s Parkland Secondary and Anna starts Grade 9, they have started a social media effort to connect their peers with others who really care and are brave enough to let it be known.
After talking with their mom, Angela, about the highly-publicized suicide this month of teen Amanda Todd as a result of bullying, Anna and Maria created Cool to Care. It’s a Facebook page they hope might be a catalyst in the fight to end bullying and to foster a more caring community — both in social media and face-to-face.
Both teens haven’t forgotten the personal connection that their peers still have with each other. Anna herself doen’t use Facebook (although she does use YouTube) and Maria got into it to be able to communicate better with a cousin.
With Cool to Care, they think they have created a place in the digital world where people can offer kind thoughts and ideas to allow people who need that kind of connection to improve their situation in life.
“We need teens to take control,” said Maria. “They need to take control of the problem. Bullying is a disease and we want to prevent someone from becoming another victim.”
Yet, the girls say they want the focus of their Facebook page to be on people — not on bullying. While that issue was why they started Cool to Care, they say if they want the world to change, it has to be focussed on people and how to better care for each other.
To do that, they hope adults and teens can use Cool to Care to offer advice and resources and even simply be an ear when it’s needed.
“This issue will fade fast (in the media),” Maria said. “If more is just said than done, then nothing said was worthwhile.”
Their action is the Facebook page and in only four days, there have been 100 people visit and ‘like’ it. Some have left comments and all so far have been positive. Just what the sisters had hoped. One of the ideas that they have talked about there is positive pranking, an idea they learned from the Blog Brothers. It’s similar to random acts of kindness, they say, and can help spread positive messages.
It’s positive action that they, themselves, try to emulate. Maria said she recently had lunch with a girl she didn’t know very well.
Treating people better, she continued, is the challenge.
“Doing it isn’t always easy,” Marie said. “It’s about doing the right thing, even when it’s hard.”
“If we can change one life, then this is going to worth it,” added Anna.
Cool to Care might exist in the social media world, but the girls think it will spread to the physical world as well.
Teens are connected into social media, Anna agreed, but added they do interact in person. That aspect of socialization hasn’t changed. It’s simply different than a generation or two ago.
Maria said being bullied physically can often drive a person to stay in class with a teacher, rather than spend lunch or recess outside in fear.
Online, the same thing occurs if they decide to cancel their social media accounts. In both ways, the victim is further isolated and that’s not the solution.
The Craggs hope that convincing people that it’s cool to care, a nice word can be said or a positive action will happen to draw people away from bullying situations.
Angela said the idea is to be a part of a large change. Such as, for example, how the attitudes around smoking changed and no longer holds the same ‘cool’ attitude.
As places like Cool to Care spread knowledge and help push away fear, the Craggs hope they can prevent others from being the next victim.
Cool to Care can be found on at www.facebook.com/pages/Cool-To-Care/331065480325500.