Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mayor Menino and Superintendent Johnson Host Meeting with Cyber-Mentors at City Hall

As part of the Mayor's ongoing campaign against bullying in the city of Boston, he and BPS superintendent of schools, Dr. Carol Johnson, hosted a meeting about cyberbullying with past and present Boston Public School's cybersafety mentors. The cybersafety mentors are BPS high school students who have been hired during past summers to create materials and perform presentations to educate others in the community about the importance of cybersafety. Two weeks ago, Mayor Menino announced the city's campaign against bullying which included a hotline in which students and parents can anonymously call to report incidents of bullying. The hotline is up and running through the Boston Health Commission and has already received some phone calls according to this article from the Boston Herald. The bullying hotline number is 617.534.5050.

Another part of the campaign was to meet with students to solicit their ideas on how the city can better respond to bullying, what schools can do to help parents and students and how the city can work with social networking websites on providing protection for victims of cyberbullying. As both the mayor and superintendent stated during the meeting, the students are the experts when it comes to cyberbullying and social networking issues and it is important that they play a key role in the way the city and schools respond to cyberbullying incidents. Mayor Menino hosted 16 cybersafety mentors for lunch in his office to get their input. The students had a number of great ideas including:
  • We need to find a way to get the message out to parents. a lot of parents don't know what their kids are doing online...we should have classes for parents.
  • A group task force should be created to specifically deal with cybersecurity and cyberbullying in the city of Boston.
  • Companies providing the technology should provide the user with basic safety knowledge. Facebook and other sites like it should provide online training tutorials to educate the user how to properly use the site. Scenarios about cyberbullying with instructions on what to do if you are cyberbullied should be included on that.
  • Facebook and other social networking companies should make you go through a safety training before allowing you to create a profile.
  • Advertise the bullying hotline on the MBTA. Students are always taking trains and buses, the anti-bullying campaign should be publicized there.
  • There should be a city wide cybersafety week to highlight all of the issues. There should be activities during that week to educate students and parents about cybersafety.
  • Educate all people on the statistics of cyberbullying. How many victims there actually are. People respond to statistics.
  • Create a fan page on Facebook so students can forward information and follow the campaign.
  • There needs to be clear, appropriate consequences and consistent enforcement of cyberbullying policy in the district that will act as a deterrent to those who are thinking of bullying someone.
  • There should be counseling services available not just for victims, but for the bullies as well. A lot of times people bully others because they are suffering from low self esteem or they have other problems in their lives.
Mayor Menino and Superintendent Johnson will take a closer look at these recommendations from the students as they expand and define Boston's anti-bullying campaign this spring. There is also a planned spring forum on social networking that will take place and possibly include representatives from social networking sites Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and MySpace.

No comments: