NILES, Ohio--(EON: Enhanced Online News)--October is National Bullying Prevention Month and, this year, one campaign is uniting more than 150 retail developers across the United States to address this epidemic problem. It’s called Malls and Retailers Unite Against Bullying.
“It is important that the messaging extends beyond the school environment, reinforcing our anti-bullying platform in daily life, outside of the classroom.”
The problem of bullying is as big as the network assembled to address it. Studies show that bullying causes serious social and emotional problems for children, including depression, low self-esteem and anxiety. Without intervention, bullies also suffer. As adults, they commit more crimes, use more mental health services and have a higher risk of alcoholism. Despite increased media attention, many bullying situations continue to go unnoticed. It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students.
While schools do what they can to address the issue, malls are getting involved because they have a unique place in American life. They are the modern day “Town Square,” a natural place for gathering. “Malls and retailers are privileged to be in constant contact with their community. We need to leverage this relationship for the good of our children. This is beyond business. It is our responsibility,” says Phyllis Cafaro, the organizer behind Malls and Retailers Unite Against Bullying. She adds, “It is important that the messaging extends beyond the school environment, reinforcing our anti-bullying platform in daily life, outside of the classroom.”
But you need more than just a convenient meeting space to advance a campaign. Cafaro saw the advantage of reaching impressionable children with something they love – cartoon-driven stories.
Captain McFinn and Friends, an educational company and creator of bullying prevention materials, launched the program with great success in October of 2012. The program features puppets, posters, music and video to tell stories of kindness, respect and personal responsibility using a former “bully” shark (McFinn) and his undersea friends. It’s an approach specially designed by experts to reach younger children. Cafaro points out that typical anti-bullying efforts target tweens and teenagers while Captain McFinn reaches an audience that has been neglected so far.
Mall owners are tailoring events to their communities by utilizing resources provided by Captain McFinn and Friends. These colorful, user-friendly tools can be accessed online at www.captainmcfinn.com. Some retailers are also inviting local public officials to participate in events, which can include marches, rallies, music and other activities. “Every effort helps,” says Cafaro.
Malls and Retailers Unite Against Bullying has quickly grown to eclipse the size of its original efforts in 2012. Simon Malls committed 100 malls to the effort through their Simon Kidgit Kids Club® newsletter, while Forest City Properties added more than 15 of their shopping centers, including properties in Georgia, Colorado, California and more. Westfield has also joined the initiative, signing on 22 of their WFamily Life Centers. The campaign will be represented throughout the country in locations such as Governor’s Square Mall in Clarksville, Tennessee, Meadowbrook Mall in Bridgeport, West Virginia and Spotsylvania Towne Center in Fredericksburg, VA and include developers CBL & Associates Properties, Inc., PREIT, Trademark Property Co. and Cypress Equities.
“Our goal,” says Cafaro, “is to bring communities together and educate people about how bullying affects all of us. The overwhelming support we are getting from malls and retailers for this initiative further illustrates the need for a positive bullying prevention program in our communities.”
For more information, visit www.captainmcfinn.com.