Most parents are concerned about what happens to their children online, but a Massapequa High School student has come up with evidence that many parents don't know their teens are being bullied on the Internet.
Angela Williams, an MHS senior looked into the problem of cyber-bullying as part of a project to earn the Girl Scout's top honor, the Gold Award. He work and her results were impressive.
After spending more than 100 hours on the project, Angela organized a program entitled, “Cyber Bullying: the Ugly Side of Technology.”
This wasn't kid's stuff. Angela put together a panel of experts from the legal, educational and social work world.
She also presented data she collected from more than 600 parents and students, finding that while 42.6 percent of students surveyed believe they've been cyber bullied, only 24.2 percent of parents surveyed knew that their children were being bullied online.
“There are a lot of untold stories and more kids that are affected than people realize,” Angela told those who came to the forum on Wednesday. “I recently spoke with middle schoolers in a neighboring district and was shocked to see how many of them shared stories about being bullied. One even attempted suicide.”
Those in attendance heard from Suffolk County assistant district attorney Brandon Draper, who serves as the advisor to the school's mock trial team. He said their can be serious legal consequences to cyber bullying. Punishments for the most serious cases of cyber bullying, a Class A misdemeanor, could be up to a year in prison or three years’ probation, he said.
Joanne Waters, a Massapequa High School social worker, discussed the difference between teasing and bullying and told parents waht their options are if their child is targeted.
Eliza Zipper, a program and critical issues manager for Girl Scouts of Nassau County, spoke about how bullying affects girls.
Panelists offered several suggestions for students' cyber safety.
- Think before your hit “send.”
- Think about the digital footprint you are leaving for others to view,
- Use electronics in an open space.
- Keep your passwords confidential.
- Google your name to see what come up about yourself.
Angela, who wants to study government or economics in college, plans to sustain her work through webinar talks, a website and a blog.