Cyberbullying has become an epidemic at U.S. schools and has lead to some victims of this type of bullying feeling shunned by fellow classmates. In some cases cyberbullying has sadly ended in tragedy for dozens of students.
However, four students attending Excel Academy Charter School in East Boston have shown through essays that they wrote that there are ways to turn the trend and encourage safety and kindness on social media networks like Facebook.
Excel fifth graders Alex, Bella, Ry, and Tony were among more than 20 students to write essays on the lessons they learned as part of an Internet safety and anti-bullying program led by Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley. Director of Youth Safety and Outreach Jacquelyn Lamont directed the program.
Last week, the four Eastie students had lunch with the D.A. and toured Boston’s central courthouse yesterday in recognition of their winning essays on the topic of being safe and kind online.
“Selecting four top essays was a tough decision, but these four really crystallized what it means for kids to be safe and kind online,” said Conley. “This is an important message for young people in the 21st century. They, their classmates, and their parents should be proud of this accomplishment.”
Late last year, Excel hosted a set of presentations on how kids can avoid online trouble as part of Conley’s CyberPeace for Students program. Later, the students were asked to write about what they’d learned. Conley called all of the writing samples “exceptional” and praised the students’ teachers and families for helping to raise quick learners with good instincts who were eager to protect their friends – and even strangers – from online perils.
“Kids should never post personal information online,” wrote Alex. “Personal information includes your birthday, address, and embarrassing photos.”
“If another person is being teased online, I will tell them to stop because they are hurting their feelings and I will stick up for the person,” Bella wrote. “Online kindness should be important to everyone.”
“Talking about someone online is different from talking about someone offline because talking online can spread all over the world,” wrote Ry. “Talking either online or offline you should always be respectful.”
“If I am on Facebook I won’t accept friend requests from people I do not know,” Tony wrote. “Only if I know them will I accept their friend requests.”
Joined by Excel’s Dean of Fifth and Sixth Grade Students Ben Ure, the youngsters dined on pizza with Conley and Lamont at the DA’s downtown offices, and then toured the Boston Municipal Court, where they met Judge Sally Kelly. Kelly allowed them the rare privilege of taking the bench, and Court Officer Roberta Alexopoulos demonstrated security techniques used to keep the building safe for everyone inside.
“We hear stories of cyberbullying, online enticement, and other disturbing events involving kids and computers,” said Conley. “But every day, Suffolk County’s young people are making smart decisions that keep themselves and their friends safe. I want to recognize and praise them as the leaders they really are.”
Conley and his staff regularly visit schools in Suffolk County to discuss online safety with students, parents, and teachers.
“We’ve got a great generation of kids growing up today,” Conley said. “If they’re the future of Boston and the Commonwealth, then I think we’re in great hands.”
If you’re interested in a presentation at your school or organization, please contact [email protected]