On Tuesday, February 19 Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden visited sixth graders at Milford Middle School to talk about being safe online and bullying on social media. Since becoming Attorney General in 2006, Beau has worked to help protect children in The First State as he created the Child Predator Unit within the Department of Justice. This unit calls for tougher prison sentences for child pornographers and stronger measures to protect children online.
In addition to being concerned about adults hurting children, Beau has also taken a position to help educate children on how they are hurting each other online. With the advancement in personal devices such as smart phones and the evolution of social media, Biden recognizes the increasing dangers that are presented to school-age children at home and at school. Taking a survey of the 300 plus students in attendance, Biden asked the group how many of them participate on the social media site Facebook, almost every student raised their hand.
According to Biden, while meeting with the the Chief Financial Officer of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg earlier this year, he was told that the average seventh grader in the United States has 278 friends on the social media site. With 300 million Americans participating on the site, and 1 billion individuals worldwide, it can quickly become a dangerous place for children of any age.
“What’s the first thing your parents taught you as a kid,” asked Biden to the gymnasium full of sixth graders. “Don’t talk to strangers. It is as or more important not to talk to strangers online.” To put the numbers in perspective, each grade in the Milford Middle School has on average 350 students. With several students admitting to have over 1,000 friends on Facebook, they are inviting the equivalent of the entire school to view their personal information.
Attorney General Biden continued to talk with the group about the information they share online and warned about using cellphones as a device to transmit photos. When surveyed on which students have a smart phone, a large majority of the student population raised their hands again. Biden spoke of the irresponsible photos that are taken by students in Delaware schools in an effort to embarrass and bully fellow students. He shared information regarding the serious consequences that can come from sending these photo messages to friends or posting them on social media sites like instagram.
“Im concerned about the student that does not go to school the next day because a compromising photograph has been sent to their classmates,” commented Biden. “It is a form of bullying and can possibly be a violation of the law.” According to Biden 160,000 children in the United States do not attend school every day because of bullying and an additional 1 million report being bullied online.
Students were urged to talk with their principals, teachers and resource officers if they witness bullying in schools and online. Biden also challenged the students of Milford Middle School to take an active role in preventing bullying by talking with and including kids that are bullied into their activities.
“The leaders in this room have a special responsibility in this school,” stated Biden. “If the leaders do not tolerate bullying it will become very difficult for bullying to exist here.”