The Milford Parents Advisory Council (MPAC) held a cyber bullying seminar on Thursday, March 15 to educate parents of the issues of online bullying and social networking. Present at the meeting was Director of Student Support Sylvia Henderson, Resource Officer Joey Melvin and Delaware Department of Technology & Information Specialist Randy Reynolds.
Opening up the evening, students and parents were educated on the several mediums of social media that are prevalent among students including Facebook. Mr. Reynolds, Specialist from the Delaware Department of Technology & Information, demonstrated to the audience the dangers of sharing information online, how to limit that information and how to be sure students are safe while communicating with others.
“There is so much out there online that it is impossible for us to limit or restrict all of the information that is on the internet,” commented Mr. Reynolds. “The only way we can combat this problem is through education and parental involvement.”
Officer Melvin, School Resource Office for the Milford School District, spoke about why the sharing of information on social networks can be dangerous for students and schools by leading to cyber bullying. A new weapon of anger, cyber bullying has become ever-present in our schools and is more difficult to control than traditional bullying.
In a survey of 1,500 students conducted by isafe.com, a nationally known company that provides internet safety education, 52% of students stated that they have said something hurtful to others online, 57% have had something hurtful said to them, 42% were bullied and 34% have been threatened online.
“Cyber bullying outweighs the old physical bullying you’re used to,” commented Officer Melvin. “I investigate bullying cases for hours on Facebook every single day from high school students down to elementary grade students.”
Examples given by Office Melvin of cyber bullying included sending mean messages, spreading rumors, stealing account information and sending messages pretending to be someone else online. These bullying methods can be considered criminal actions such as harassment, terroristic threatening and conspiracy and result in arrests and even jail time. Even if the action of cyber bullying is taken outside of school, students may be held liable for bullying if it affects the environment of the school or distracts the victim from feeling safe at school.
School officials state that cyberbullying needs to be prevented on two fronts; at the schools and at home. Office Melvin offered tips for helping children from becoming a victim of cyberbullying or bullying themselves. Email addresses and Facebook accounts should be created and monitored by parents and internet access should be limited to one hour a day. On Facebook, parents should have to approve friends and pictures that are allowed on their students’ site. Any personal information such as phone number or address should be left off the page and not shared with others.