Unified Caring Association (UCA) has scholarship opportunities for U.S. students each year. Each submission that arrives brings excitement and smiles. We are so happy to read about these caring students who share their ideas for a better world. Some of these essays share life stories that reflect how these caring ambassadors help bring more caring into the world. Recently, we began celebrating the various themes that surfaced in essays submitted by students across the U.S. Our first theme was equality. Next we want to thank and cheer those who wrote about social media and anti bullying. We are happy to share some of the essays. These essays have caring quotes that reflect the theme of social media and preventing bullying.
“My grandfather is an 80-year-old, Jewish, politically conservative man living in rural Maine who spends his time watching and reading the news. And because he is constantly consuming alarming news about murder and crime, he has become scared and closed-minded. It has made him into a person that makes judgments about people of color, is fearful of immigrants, and comments on the “inner cities crumbling into poverty and crime.”
I live over 2,000 miles away in an urban neighborhood in Denver, Colorado. In my daily life, I am surrounded by people of different cultures, socio-economic backgrounds, immigration status and perspectives—but with the same frightening news. The contrast between my grandfather’s views and mine has made me recognize the impact that sensationalized media has on its viewers. If I could change one thing in the world to make it a more caring place, I would change the way the media represents people and current events.
Sensationalized media makes the world seem dangerous by disproportionately portraying negative and violent events more often than positive news. When we are bombarded with that kind of information, it closes our minds and makes us fearful of each other. It is easy to get wrapped up in sensationalized information from the news. When we see more violence than kind acts, we begin to think the world is more aggressive than caring. We become isolated and fearful of people different than us, causing us to become less empathetic, less compassionate, and less caring.
I believe that if the news, as well as other media like Facebook and Twitter, showed a less sensationalized, more accurate view of people and world events, we would become more caring and compassionate towards one another. External forces pull us apart, but they can also bring us together. I would change media reporting to report crime with simple facts, not opinion or hyped up information. I would make it so media talked about crime in a proportional rate to the actual rate of crime. We see more bad than good on the media, but there is more good than bad in real life. I would also want to add a segment to all news channels of positive news about people each day. I know that many news channels have something like this, but it is often irrelevant or uninteresting. Finally, I would want to make social media a less divisive platform by creating pages for open conversation and positive news.
People work tirelessly all over the world to make powerful, progressive, and positive change. I want to create media that includes information about people from Korea to Sudan to Mexico working hard to positively impact communities. I believe that if the news had these new elements, people would be more curious about each other, open towards one another and more hopeful about humanity in general. People could connect over similarities, not just differences. Sensationalized news creates division and fear, but approaching media differently could have the opposite effect. To make the world a more caring place, I would create media that brings us together, portrays the good side of humanity as well as the areas that need improvement. News can become a powerful tool to make the world a more caring place.”
“To make the world a more caring place, the first thing that I would change is disabling the “anonymous” feature on news sites, web forums, and social media. Anonymity is a dangerous game to play because it makes people immediately more ruthless, which then leads to a toxic online environment. Forcing people to put their names on their posts would immediately change the quality of material that was getting posted.
With the continuation of advancements in technology, paper news sources are almost totally obsolete. As a result of this advancement, websites are getting saturated with comments, many of which are tactless and inconsiderate. This effect is amplified by the rise of “anonymous” commenters – it’s as if by taking someone’s identity out of the public eye, they are given permission to tear down others since nobody can tear them down in return. Reading the comments on a news site is like watching vultures circle and subsequently attack an innocent animal. As soon as somebody sees a comment they disagree with, their claws are out and they have no shame in tearing somebody else down.
Social media does nothing but exacerbate this effect. In allowing the public to share their opinions without having to put a name to what they say, platforms are allowing some true colors to shine, which, in a lot of cases, is not a good thing. Racist, homophobic, and bigoted opinions are running rampant over the media. Cyberbullying is on the rise and, as a result of that, suicide. When people are given the opportunity to be anonymous, sometimes good things can happen. But when so many opinions are swirling around, it’s hard to not get sucked in or take things personally.
By removing the publics’ ability to be anonymous, we would force everybody to own up to their opinions and have them face consequences for the things they say that impact other peoples’ lives. Free speech is important, but not so much that it can destroy somebody to the point that they take their own life. Anonymity is toxic. The public can have opinions, but if they choose to share it, their name should forever be stamped on it. The world needs to see people for who they are, not what they post. In-person interactions are never going to be the same as an interaction in the comments section of a YouTube video, so why wouldn’t we change the parameters of the comments section to reflect how people would interact in real life? Human contact is fundamental to our health, but if we are constantly ripped apart on social media because somebody decided to go anonymous, where is that contact that we needed?
Making the world a more caring place requires a lot more changes than this one. But I think that disabling online anonymity would be a start, because it would change the interactions that happen on the Internet, which is where a lot of us spend a good chunk of our time. Society can be good, but we have to make the change that allows them to do good and be seen.”
“My legs took small strides as I walked towards the lunch table. As I scanned the large cafeteria, I couldn’t help but notice the people already sitting down. Every one of them were on their phones. It wasn’t like there was no one for them to talk to. Their friends were sitting right in front of them, but there was no communication. What has the world come to? There are people that could provide the same entertainment, company, and joy, as their phone but instead, everyone chooses to divert all of their attention to a small rectangular device. If I could change one thing in the world to make it a more caring place, I would have people put their phones down and experience the world by interacting with others.
The average teenager spends about 9 hours a day online. Phones and social media have taken over societal bodies as if everyone is now under its trance. The first thing some do is wake up and check their phones. Everyone is guilty of this, even myself. Instead of going straight to our phones, we should make an effort to go straight to our parents and say the simple phrase “good morning.” Talking and spending time with family and friends would ensure family connections to become greater and friendships to become stronger. In one of my personal experiences, dedicating time to see my grandpa has been more important than ever. He has been restricted to his bed for about 10 months now, and with school, there is little time during the weekdays and sometimes weekends for me to see him. My mom has resorted to FaceTime, but the physical connection becomes absent. When I do get to see him, I try remaining off of my cell phone to treasure the time around him. Spending time with him made me realize that family bonding is important, and with the use of cell phones, this restricts the development of a strong bond. Talking to them, or just the holding of hands, is a symbol of care that we just can’t achieve over technology.
Looking at the world through phones is extremely different from a set of eyes. Instead of being fixated on a screen for hours on end, we can make meaningful impacts on others’ lives. Take for example, volunteering at a food bank. We can meet new people and experience the feeling of giving and making a difference in someone’s life. Personally, when I first entered the food bank, I didn’t expect to be impacted or make much of a difference. I was only there to complete the volunteer hours needed, but after going through the motions of what the workers do for a living, I loved the feeling of being able to help distribute essential needs to families in need. Seeing the dozens of families outside waiting for their weekly grocery earnings, I realized how blind I’ve been to the situations in our world that I didn’t experience or see personally. With the constant use of technology, people no longer see what surrounds them.
Putting our phones down allows us to experience the world. Our phones are like our barriers to interacting with others in a meaningful way. Breaking down this barrier is tough but essential for a more caring world.”
These amazing students bring joy and kindness to the world! We are happy and proud to be able to help support them and their continuing education. We have more themes than social media and anti bullying. Other themes that we will be blogging about are awareness and empathy. We look forward to sharing more themes and essays with our caring community. Thank you to all of our scholarship applicants, you truly are caring ambassadors!
Each day, sometimes twice a day, children line up at the school cafeteria. They eagerly chat about which meal they are going to order; the burger, french toast, or fruit salad all sound good! Once they get to the cashier, the mood quickly changes. It becomes embarrassment and horror as they are labeled with debt when the register flashed with a negative balance. To add to this, the meal that excites them is taken away. It is replaced with a simple sandwich made from two pieces of white bread and a slice of American cheese. This bullying happens more often than not, and is a little known issue in the United States. Without a doubt this bullying due to lack of funding is unacceptable, and breaks our hearts at Unified Caring Association (UCA). We would like to raise awareness about this form of bullying.
What is school lunch debt shaming?
“Lunch Shaming” refers to identifying and placing a stigma on a student who does not have money to buy a school meal. This is often referring to children in K-12th grade, who get their breakfast or lunch at school. “While the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) narrowly applies this overt identification to students who are eligible for free or reduced lunch, in practice legal lunch shaming occurs against students whose family income exceeds free or reduced lunch eligibility thresholds.” (American Bar Association) Lunch debt shaming’s purpose is to embarrass a student and subsequently their parent(s) so that the debt is paid quickly, making it so that the school has less financial burden. Both students who do not qualify for free school meals through the National School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program but qualify for reduced-price school meals $0.30/day (breakfast) and $0.40/day (lunch) or those that do not qualify for subsidised meal programs can accrue lunch debt.
It comes in many forms…
Think about the memes where people take pictures of their pets with signs shaming them for what they did wong, such as chewing up all the toilet paper rolls in the bathroom. Or, like this one below:
Now apply this tactic to an elementary school kid. Their hand now has a stamp stating “Not Enough Money.” Less funny? We would agree.
Other stories that can be found in the news include throwing the child’s meal away after it had been served if they cannot pay. It appears that some schools even offer different meals to the children who have school lunch debt, such as PBJ’s instead of the hot meal. Or, there have been reports of schools barring the kids with lunch debt from participating in afterschool activities. Or threatening the kids with other actions such as placing them in foster care. These unacceptable actions vary because there is no set baselines for unpaid meal fees in the meal programs’ policies for the school districts by The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
How can we solve it?
There are so many ways that we can help solve the issue of school lunch debt. Jeffery Lew gives a great summary on how we can be more proactive in the short and long term in eliminating lunch debt shaming. Lew suggests being active in raising funds through crowdfunding, such as Go Fund Me, to help those in immediate need. Other ways are by the schools notifying the parents of the student meal accounts. This can be done by paper notifications sent home with the kids, or by email. Some schools can even set up automatic notifications to the parents’ mobile devices.
Overall, Lew sums it up when he comments how kids and debt should not be in the same sentence. And bullying children to get a message to the parents is unacceptable. With a supportive, inclusive, and caring community we can help remove lunch shaming debt from schools, we can further focus on growing caring children.
In most communities there are times when we are faced with challenges, negativity or bullying. The internet has not been spared from this, especially on social media platforms. This newest form of internet harassment is often referred to as cyberbullying. We at Unified Caring Association (UCA) want to help source tools and share resources to help others and our children learn the skills needed to stop current forms of bullying and prevent any future bullying from happening.
Bullying and forms of hate or discrimination have been around for most, if not all of human history. With the advent of the internet in the 1990’s there came a new form of bullying: cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is the use of electronic communication to harass, trash talk, or bully a person. Often times this is typically done by sending messages that can be intimidating or threatening in nature. One of the first pervasive examples of this is seen through Monica Lewinski’s experiences. At this time her private life became public, and people began to ridicule her as fast as a wildfire in dry grass. Since then she has become a prominent anti-bullying advocate, even giving a strong TedTalk on the subject.
Cyberbullying has become a more common issue in households and schools, especially for children and teens. Often we hear about messages that are hurtful or degrading left on one or more kid’s social media account from their peers. This begs the question: what tools and organizations can we turn to to help our children dispel cyberbullying?
Stomp Out Bullying
UCA has aligned itself with Stomp Out Bullying, a leading national nonprofit that dedicates itself to changing to a caring culture for all children. This organization works to prevent and reduce bullying/cyberbullying. Also Stomp Out Bullying educates people against LGBTQ discrimination and racism in an effort to deter violence in schools and in communities (online and offline) across the U.S. This organization teaches effective responses and solutions to bullying, cyberbullying, etc. They do this using in-school and online education programs for kids and teens. In addition to their education programs, Stomp Out Bullying provides help for people in need or at-risk of suicide. They raise awareness through public service announcements, peer mentoring programs in schools, and social media campaigns.
October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. Every year the first Monday of October is World Day of Bullying Prevention™ where students, communities, and schools raise awareness by wearing the color blue. Stomp Out Bullying has unique blue shirts to commemorate this day and further bring this national challenge into the spotlight. But, we can all just unify under the color blue to show support as well. This strong unified voice will help the world hear and see that our culture needs to change to be more caring. This is the 12th year that Stomp Out Bullying has began this quest and they have a wonderful slogan for their shirts: ‘Make Bullying History.’ This event will help “…speak for all of our youth who are tormented by bullying, cyberbullying, cruelty, hatred, racism, homophobia and LGBTQ discrimination…[we] stand together to MAKE BULLYING HISTORY!” (Stomp Out Bullying)