By: Lacy Hilliard
Streetchat is an app that is gaining popularity amongst Johnson County High School students. Described as an online photo board by its creators, the app allows users to choose their high school and a screen name, which can be completely anonymous and thats all it takes to gain access to a photo forum with other users supposedly from the same high school. The app functions like most photo sharing apps; the photos are displayed in a streaming format that allows users to comment on each image. Private messages can also be sent between users. Regardless of its intended use, the majority of the posts seem to have but one mission: to bully, belittle and degrade.
Recently the app became such an issue at Happy Valley High School that it prompted the principal to announce to students that any instances of bullying and harassment will be turned over to law enforcement officials. It seems that Johnson County students have only recently become aware of Streetchat. But it didnt take long for the posts to turn ugly.
As a JCHS Alumnus and member of this community, I feel partially responsible for the youth that roam the halls of my former stomping ground, as I feel we all should. I have visited the Johnson County High School Streetchat page and the first word that comes to mind is disgusted. The second word is sad and the third– mad.
Im disgusted because through my work at The Tomahawk I have spent a lot of time with JCHS students and the sentiment I most often feel toward the JCHS student body is impressed. The amount of talent, intelligence and potential in this small town never ceases to amaze me. So when I think of the many faces as they pass through the halls of JCHS, I wonder who has been targeted and who is doing the targeting. Some of the cruel and foul things posted on Streetchat cant possibly come from the students of this community. But they do. And I want to know why.
Im sad for those that have been targeted. No matter how good you feel about yourself, how supportive of a family you have or how many friends you have, reading terrible things about yourself, plastered across the internet, under the protection of anonymity hurts. Or on the flipside, perhaps some of the victims are often targets online and at school and they have no support from family or friends. Regardless of the circumstance, if you have been a victim, please hear me now. The things people post about you have absolutely nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. The best revenge is living well so even if you feel you have absolutely no reason to do so, hold your head high. Move through the hallway with confidence and love yourself. But be forewarned: Your very confidence may cause you to further become the victim of vicious criticism. Envy is a powerful emotion and you can choose to live above it.
And finally, Im mad. Im mad that teenagers continue to attack other teenagers. Bullying has occurred since the beginning of time. The way I see it there are two choices for up and coming millennials. To choose to be the generation that put a stop to bullying or to choose to be the generation that coined the term cyberbullying. I ask all those involved to remember that youre attacking real people and these attacks have real-life consequences. There have been cases of suicide as a result of cyberbullying both regionally and across the globe. There can also be legal consequences. Though the bullies may feel protected by the shroud of anonymity that Streetchat provides, remember that being anonymous on the internet is merely a façade. The right people with the right technology (the authorities for example) can remove the anonymous blanket of protection with little effort. Theres a person behind the screen, after all.
My final message to the students of Johnson County High School is posted below in Streetchat format. If youre a student that is having difficulty as a result of bullying, cyber or otherwise, there is help available if you need it. School counselors, staff or another adult you trust is a great place to start. If youre experiencing suicidal thoughts, know that you arent alone. There are people in this community that care about you. For immediate help call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit their website at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org for additional resources.