Growing concerns about teens’ cellphone and Internet use has led one group in the San Mateo County’s Leadership Program to begin an outreach project to educate parents and kids about online behavior.
The project is part of the 10-month program that allows community leaders from the cities of Burlingame, Hillsborough, Foster City and San Mateo to increase their knowledge of the community and community issues while enhancing their individual effectiveness through exposure to leadership characteristics. In September 2013, the group met and five projects came out of the program, including the one focusing on cyberbullying.
Eric Wollman, Burlingame Police Department operations captain, will be presenting in Burlingame, providing a digital safety guide for teens, as he is part of the cyberbullying leadership team. He will also present to parents on open communication and hopes to open parents’ eyes to what kids are doing online so parents can set down some parameters and goals for kids. He discusses both sexting and cyberbullying.
“Once they publish whatever it is they publish — whether it’s a photo or a statement — it’s published and done,” he said. “They need to understand the consequences to them as publishers in the digital world. Just like they don’t make right decisions on the blacktop that changes their world once they hit the send button.”
The presentations are based on training material put together by the Sunnyvale Police Department and Yahoo.
“I like to hit the seventh- and eighth-grade group,” Wollman. “They’re all online, have phones and communicating with each other via text. There’s so many ways they’re talking to each other other than face to face. It’s good foundation of how to behave as a good digital citizen. I’ll also be talking about context, when sending a text do they really understand what you’re trying to say?”
Meanwhile, Antonia Ehlers, communications manager at Junipero Serra High School, is also part of the group and has three teenagers herself. At one of her teenage daughter’s schools, there was even an impostor posing as a student and trying to befriend girls at the school online.
“They want to be friends with people and it becomes a competition,” she said. “We want to get the message out there at an early age this can be very dangerous. It’s uncharted territory for all of us and the more we can do to educate the public on dangers of social media the better.”
The group wants to help with a common problem parents are facing today, she said.
“As parents, it’s really frustrating the amount of time they’re spending on the cyber world,” Ehlers said. “It’s important to try to set limits. It’s additional time, an additional pressure, an additional stress. We didn’t have this when we were growing up. It’s a lot to manage for these kids.”
The group hosted its first presentation at St. Catherine of Siena School in Burlingame. There will be a presentation on cyberbullying 7 p.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday, March 4 at the Burlingame Library’s Lane Room, 480 Primrose Road. RSVP to Sandra at 201-0821 or email@example.com. There will also be a presentation at Burlingame Intermediate School March 28.
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