Feeling left out, lonely or invisible is a major issue in schools, according to Beyond Differences.

The feeling is called “social isolation,” and it’s not necessarily a minor thing children outgrow. It affects academics and mental and physical health, notes Beyond Differences curriculum on the topic.

“It is our experience that social isolation is oftentimes the precursor to bullying,” the curriculum explains. “School communities with a culture of inclusion will have far less instances of bullying and cruelty.”

To address social isolation, Beyond Differences has organized “Call It Out Day,” which will take place April 28.

The day is meant as a conversation starter, with particular emphasis of “authentic and compassionate online” behavior. Students are encouraged to ask themselves to stop and think before posting, think more deeply about how they portray themselves and how their actions affect others.

According to Beyond Differences, the program can help change the middle/junior high school culture to “one of acceptance and inclusion.” You can sign up your school and access free curriculum, including a teacher’s guide and other resources, at At CallItOutDay.org.

The site also includes pictures and stories, and students and others can post to show their “pledge to end social isolation online.” Posts on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram should include #CallItOutDay.

One student video explores a high-schooler’s experiences with body shaming.

“The website called ‘Ask.FM” became really popular my first year of high school, and it was where people could ask anonymous questions of their peers,” a high school student explains.

Those posting questions and responses could remain anonymous. However, nothing stopped them from posting about others by name.

Her male classmates asked what others thought of specific girls in terms of “hotness.” A rating system took shape: On a 1 to 10 scale, girls were evaluated by boys on attractiveness — or lack thereof.

“You’d think, ‘Oh, that’s stupid; just turn it off.’ But in a small school, we became addicted, when everyone was in such a vulnerable position entering high school, with everyone wanting to know what everyone thought of everyone else,” the girls recalls.

Friendships were ruined, she notes, and there were certainly hurt feelings.

“But for me, the worst part was how Ask.FM objectified girls, rating our appearances and viewing us purely as sexual objects — and disregarding our intelligence and our personalities,” she says, adding she stopped visiting the site.

Call It Out Day is about celebrating the internet’s positive attributes while refraining from negative behaviors.

Social media sites offer myriad positive benefits, from keeping in touch with friends to information sharing, notes technology writer Ali Kingston Mwila. It is especially helpful in terms of eliminating economic, cultural and social barriers some previously experienced when trying to share their goods, services and stories.

That said, kids should be taught to monitor their use and behavior. In addition, adults should model good behavior, watch for social media addiction and shield kids from violent and sexual material, he adds.

“Another downside … is the user shares too much information, which may pose threats to them,” Mwila explains. “Even with the tight security settings, (you may leak) your personal information. (Theft of) your videos or pictures and copying your status is an easy task and can be done within a few clicks.”

Golden writes The Courier’s weekly faith and values column. Email her at onfaith@karrisgolden.com.

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