On June 2 our Safe Streets Stewart Neighborhood Communities That Care (CTC) event focused on Cybersafety & Cyberbullying took place at Stewart Middle School. Feedback from attendees of the forum told us that Cybersafety/Cyberbullying are big problems and our program for that evening offered a great deal of information AND help to adults who care about preventing harm to children.
In preparing for the event we talked with school personnel, parents, grandparents, teens, cybersafety experts and others. Their comments opened our minds to the enormous need for more work to be done to keep children and all of us safe from the dangers lurking throughout the cyberworld.
Perhaps you have noticed that several times a week there are conventional media reports about people getting bullied, threatened and harassed via computers and cellphones. The most dramatic stories include serious consequences: blackmail, physical assaults, police action for felony crimes and tragic suicides. The individual victims in these news stories include both children and adults, men and women.
Electronic forms of communication have created previously unimaginable opportunities to communicate anything from the mundane to the divine with almost anyone in the world. I can share my passion for healthy cooking within an international community of likeminded people who want to swap special recipes with other foodies. Today we can retrieve the most up to date research on health problems and treatments that was only available to small groups of researchers just a few years ago. This is all good.
At the same time, expanded and immediate communication methods come to us with many unanticipated negative consequences. A disconcerting realization is that we understand very little about the dangers inherent in our new cyberworld. How do we learn to protect ourselves and our loved ones from victimization when utilizing Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms? How can we manage our electronic gadgets so that we are less vulnerable to the loss of our financial assets, intrusions upon personal privacy, as well as protect ourselves from malicious damage to personal and career reputations.
Our Stewart Communities That Care group is now planning to continue to reach out to community members to help strengthen our knowledge and to strive to keep us safe from internet harm and to prevent victimization in the cyber-world.