By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer
Northborough – With technology changing and expanding at a rapid pace, cyberbullying is on the rise. Children need to be vigilant, but it's really up to parents to instill an open line of communication in order to help make cyberspace safe.
Ellen Miller, from? Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early's office, is a member of the Community and School Project, which provides outreach in education. She presented the Cyberbullying and Internet Safety Program Jan. 7 in the library of the Marion E. Zeh Middle School to students and parents.
This community and school program addresses ways in which parents can help keep their children safer online as well as raise awareness to students while they are on their computer devices to think before they click “send.”
“First and foremost, the best tip we can give to parents is to keep updated,” Miller said. “Technology changes daily. Kids today are digital natives while we are digital immigrants.”
Peaslee Elementary School PTO Chair Ruth Reeve had heard about the program and thought it would be valuable to bring to the elementary school parents.
“I specifically chose this time of year to have the program because many of the young students will have gotten computers, iPads, smartphones, and more as holiday gifts,” Reeve said.
According to Miller, there are now bullying and harassment laws that make it a crime to harass someone. Whether this is verbal or using technological devices, one can be held accountable and even prosecuted for their actions.
Miller spoke of the suicides of an 11-year-old Springfield boy and a 15-year-old South Hadley girl after being bullied online.
“The number one safety tip to students if they feel threatened in any way is to tell a trusted adult. We do know how to track people down with technology that is given to law enforcement,” said Miller.
Another important message to students was that they should never share passwords. It is also a good idea to log in and log out daily and never share personal information online, Miller added.
“Keep reminding the kids that everything they post, even if it has been deleted, can come back to haunt them,” Miller emphasized. “Employers, colleges and more are researching perspective employees and students. There is always a digital footprint.”
Some helpful websites for more information include: www.worcesterda.com; www.netfamilynews.org; www.commonsensemedia; www.netlingo.com; www.netsmartz.org; and www.missingkids.com.