State lawmakers in the Ohio House recently approved House Bill 315, which, if signed by Gov. John Kasich, would designate Oct. 6 as “SMART (social media awareness, respect and timing) Parent Day” in Ohio. The bill has moved to the Ohio Senate for consideration. Locally, the day has been recognized county-wide for three years.
State Rep. Steve Arndt (R-Port Clinton) introduced the legislation after Perkins High School graduate Britain Bennett, who’s brought her anti-bullying campaign to area schools, shared her desire to bring the message to the next level.
“I was pleased to sponsor this legislation on behalf of my constituent Britain Bennett, who has worked tirelessly in my community to combat the effects of bullying,” Arndt said. “This legislation will help make parents aware of the signs of social media and cyberbullying and create a safer environment for our children.”
Britain, who finished up her first year at The Ohio State University in May, was elated when Arndt told her the news.
“I cried and cried,” she said. “I was so happy because this is something that I’m super passionate about. If I can ever take it further, I would. I always want to take anything I’m doing to the next level. So thanks to his help, and getting that phone call, it was just like I’m actually doing what I wanted to do. When I introduced the idea of Be a SMART Parent Day, he was all for it and was like ‘I will totally help you get this through, give me the information and let’s get it done.’”
Next month, Britain will meet with lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to speak with them about her campaign.
Why did she choose Oct. 6 for SMART Parent Day?
“I was planning on early October because I knew that when I was cyberbullied in high school, it never happened during the first few weeks (after school started). I knew I couldn’t be the only one this was happening to, and I knew that was a time when a lot of kids were going through what I was going through. So if I tell parents to ask their kids about (bullying) in early October, that may stop a lot of things from happening that shouldn’t be happening.”
She’s received a lot of positive feedback from parents about her campaign.
“When parents are giving them a device, they’re not realizing what it can actually do for their child or do to them. So ‘SMART Parent Day’ has opened the eyes of parents, teachers and people in general, including kids my age to what actually goes on behind the scenes and how to keep yourself safe from it.”
Britain has also promoted her platform through pageants and as a spokesperson through Mars candy company’s Throw Shine campaign to promote positivity and highlight teens making a difference in their communities.
This fall, Britain is planning a cyberbullying program for parents the week of Oct. 6 in the Sandusky area and is working with Erie County Family & Children First Council to make it happen.
A piece of advice she has for parents and children about social media: “When you can be anything or do anything, be kind,” she said. “Just always remember that that little bit of shine or positivity that you’re throwing out throughout the day can change somebody’s whole life around.”
Britain’s advice on bullying
• To counter bullying, use a strategy called “TBH” — Talk to someone, block mean words and help others.
• Remember: Just because someone says something doesn't mean it's true
• If you need to talk to someone immediately, a local mental health hotline is available at all times: 1-800-826-1306.