San Antonio middle school students come up with innovative way to combat cyberbullying
SAN ANTONIO-Kids these days are fighting a battle we didn't even know would exist, and they're also coming up with a solution themselves.
If it were a meal, Instagram would be the main course, with a side of Kik and Snapchat for today's 12 and 13-year-olds.
Between the positive on the picture posting social media outlet, there's an ugly, scary side.
Just ask these 7th graders from SAISD'S Hawthorne Academy.
I ask, "Have people been mean to you on social media?
"Yes," they all say in unison.
It reached its tipping point when class wasn't even in session over thanksgiving break.
"They were saying the B word," recalls 13-year-old Aaron Castillo.
Kids hiding behind fake accounts to bully, using deception to instigate anger.
Aracely Rodriguez, 12, says "Say who's the best fighting, or the biggest loser in school, put friends against each other."
"It hurts you because like you did nothing to that person," Castillo says. "Then they started saying stuff about you and they don't really know you, they just find your account and they start saying stuff."
"Knowing it was our friends that were a part of it, we got sick of it," says 12-year-old Wendolyne Ramirez.
The 7 students took part in a Speak up! Speak out! Civics fair at UT Austin in December, competing against students from all over Texas.
Their mission: to at least limit cyberbullying.
"It took forever to collect this data," says Vargas,
Between interviews and sending out this survey to their classmates they understood more about the problem.
Vargas acknowledges, "We can't completely stop it."
They put their innovative, social media friendly minds together and came up with a fix.
"Made an Instagram account for like positivity to help people in case they are being cyberbullied."
Under the username "you.are_not.alone," they created a guaranteed safe outlet if you're being bullied.
"We don't know their exact situation so we let them know we are always here for them and if they ever needed help, we are here fo them and we can give them advice."
Their idea landed them first place in Austin.
"We all thought...it was luck," they all agree.
Their goal is to hopefully save someone like David Molak. He's the Alamo Heights student who took his own life after being cyberbullied.
"Sometimes I wish I knew who that person was," says Vargas.
"So you can help him," Castillo says.
"Yeah, I could have tried to help him more."
"Talk to him."
It's a reminder to us all that being nice is always good enough.
Thirteen-year-old John Rodriguez, 12-year-old Abigail Higa and 13-year-old Faustino Hernandez also joined their teacher's Jennifer Chamberlain, Malarie Rodriguez and Sarah Hudson in Austin for the award in December.
They earned $300 to go toward supported their cause.