Anti-bullying group Sticks’n Stones continues to expand, with a pilot for an online training programme set to be launched next year.
An ongoing partnership with Vodafone has allowed the group to develop online platform “It Starts with You”, which aims to foster social and emotional learning.
Co-founder Karla Sanders, of Alexandra, said the online platform was a way of expanding the programme to reach teens in areas outside Central Otago.
The increasing improvement in internet services meant rural areas could also participate.
“We have a real passion for small areas because sometimes the opportunities aren’t as wide as in the city.”
The programme features online communities as well as practical skills such as self talk, time management, relaxation and understanding emotions.
Modules included in the website are understanding bullying, taking positive action, being prepared, looking after me, me and others, and my place in the world.
Mrs Sanders said the programme was about preventing bullying and encouraged participants to challenge social norms.
The programme targeted 12 to 14-year-olds because younger teens were more likely to change their behaviour and were less influenced by social media, she said.
It was often the victims of bullying who were expected to change their behaviour to prevent being targeted again, she said, but the programme aimed to increase empathy and help participants understand differences in diversity.
“Our whole mission is leading change and inspiring young people.
“We’re trying to create change rather than picking up the pieces.”
The website also had an online community to allow participants to connect with one another and seek support from Sticks’n Stones ambassadors.
Having honest and meaningful relationships was crucial, even in an online setting, she said.
“Those relationships are so important.
“It’s about breaking down those barriers to seek help.”
Sticks’n Stones has a network of about 400 young people around the country and Mrs Sanders said the programme would continue to expand.
“Our young people are deeply passionate and care about making this world a better place.
“We think bullying can be a thing of the past.”