Cyber-safety expert speaks to Montgo Co. students

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Cyberbullying and Cyber-safety are the topics in the Methacton School District Wednesday; an important message from an expert on the subject.

A world renowned authority on teenagers and technology is visiting Arcola Intermediate School, in Eagleville.

He brought his message to faculty and students Thursday afternoon.

"Cyberbullying, it's using a computer or cell phone to be mean or disrespectful or hurtful," explained Dr. Sameer Hinduja.

More than 800 7th and 8th graders gathered in the Arcola Auditorium for a presentation by Dr. Sameer Hinduja, an Associate Professor in the School of Criminology at Florida Atlantic University. He is the co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center.

"Where is it happening? Well, a variety of venues that we know, and we're using Facebook and chat channels," says Dr. Hinduja.

90% of all teenagers use computers and cell phones, and school bullying, which used to end when students left the school yard, goes much farther today.

"How many of you on any level can relate to that?" asked Dr. Hinduja. "Just anger and frustration and revenge; you're just being honest."

Cyberbullying has even led to student suicides in rare cases.

"It's a big problem," said 8th grader Robert Tang. "I know people who have thought about suicide."

Dr. Hinduja says it's not an epidemic, but it is worthy of immediate attention.

"A lot of youth hear about suicides and they hear a lot of preaching and lecturing from adults which they tune out," says Dr. Hinduja. "So the goal is to reach them in a very accessible, relatable manner."

"It makes me feel better, I know it's not some person reading off script," says 8th grader Emily Emer.

"If this program reached just one family, one faculty member or student to give help and support that is what we want to do" said Dr. Timothy Quinn.

"We're really grateful that we have a nationally recognized speaker come to our school and engage everyone in the topic," said Shawna Rondeau.

"When people know someone has experienced it, not everyone knows how to react. I guess something like this gives people an idea of how they could react," said 8th grader Andrew Akins.

Dr. Hinduja's visit to Arcola Intermediate School is the second phase of a violence prevention program undertaken by Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman throughout the Methacton School district and across Montgomery County.

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