Friday, December 10, 2010

Empowering Youth to Make a Difference

Since 1995, WiredSafety has been empowering youth to make a difference. The Teenangels program trains teens over a two year period to become experts in cybersafety. They do original research and make presentations to schools, community, media, and industry to educate and inform. Last night at Dean College in Franklin, MA, the program took it’s next logical step with the help of WiredSafety Teenangel Mentors, Lisa Keohane, Sharon Jackson, and Linda Rondeau.

In early days of Teenangels, the teens received face to face training from Parry Aftab, local law enforcement, the FBI and industry experts, but that model wasn’t scalable and a few years ago we added Moodle as a way of providing lessons and resources to the growing chapters.

Teens learned about Cyberbullying, Social Networking, Sexual Predators, Netiquette, Privacy and Security, Cyberlaw, and how to present to others. With input from mentors and teens the program improved and grew and in 2009, Lisa Keohane, a parent and technology instructor from Dean College, after getting support from principals, administrators and the Franklin Community Health Council came to Parry with the idea of a community-wide chapter of Teenangels that spanned all of the schools in the district.

The chapter grew and a significant number of other students expressed a desire to become part of the program, but the two year commitment to training and research was not something that all the students could do. In order to accommodate these students, a new Moodle was created with condensed training and the first chapter of WiredTeens was formed.

Last night the 17 Teenangels collaborated with 65 WiredTeens to conduct a Town Meeting on the topic of Cyberbullying. The two hour program was written and conducted almost entirely by the teens.

Teenangel Booke, began the program with the welcome, some background on the Teenangels and an overview of resources on the tables, which included instructions on how to log into the college network and access resource they has placed on the taskforce web site. Many of the documents were at the Franklin Cyberbullying Taskforce site.

Next Kate introduced MA Legislature Majority Leader Representative, James Vallee, who has been a long time child advocate and supporter of Massachusetts Cyberbullying legislagtion, and Parry Aftab, founder of WiredSafety.

From there, it was time for the teens to do their thing. Allie and Maddie gave the audience an overview of cyberbullying and then quizzed the adults to make sure they understood the definition.

Tara, Eric, and Justin presents the stories of cyberbullying victims in the news, including Ally Pfeiffer, who made news this week, but tracking down and assisting law enforcement officials in identifying and arresting teens who had been cyberbullying her. Ally will be working with the teens in the coming weeks to help promote WiredSafety’s Don’t Stand By, Stand Up campaign.



They sold white bracelets with the slogan engraved in it. They then told the audience that each time they do something to stop or prevent bullying, they should color in a letter.

Students from the Annie Sullivan Middle School chapter of WiredTeens presented a series of skits they wrote about cyberbullying and how to deal with it.

Then Laura and Natalie presented an overview of the technology used by cyberbullies and the ways they use them.

Though WiredTeens don’t do in depth research project, the teens from Remington Middle School conducted a technology survey. Particularly interesting was the differences in texting between grades 6 and 8. Eight percent of 6th graders sent 100+ texts per day, but 32% of 8th graders sent 100+ messages and 60%

Probably the most interesting statistic came from the Franklin Teenangels survey of 730 middle school students in reply to the question, If someone asked you in person if you had been cyberbullied, would you be honest? While 45% said yes, about 6% said they weren’t sure, 9% said no and 40% said it depends on who was asking.

After the teen presentations there was a Q&A where the audience asked questions of the teens and Parry. The night ended with a challenge to the audience to help them in planning and funding their next goal. They want to rent a bus and spend a week traveling around the state making presentations to schools and communities.

For me, the most important comment was made during the preprogram preparation where Parry asked the teens the most interesting or exciting thing they learned or did since starting Teenangels. Of course many of the pointed to their presentation at the Summit in DC, but they all agreed with Brooke when she said she was amazed that they could really make a difference and help stop cyberbullying.

That’s empowerment!

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