U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, Lt. Gov. Matt Denn and an official from Facebook co-hosted an online safety night at Sussex Central High School
Most teens use Facebook to communicate with their friends, share experiences and have fun.
But the world’s most popular social media site isn’t free of abuse.
“Bullying still goes on in the state today, but it’s not the traditional kind of bullying – it’s online bullying,” U.S. Sen. Tom Carper told students and parents at an Online Safety Night he co-hosted with Facebook at Sussex Central High School last week.
Brooke Oberwetter, Facebook’s associate manager of policy communications, showed those in attendance how to combat bullying and other abuses by using the site’s privacy settings and reporting tools.
She also detailed how students could block all interactions between themselves and their tormentors, while forwarding an abusive post on to a parent or school officials.
Despite those tools, Oberwetter said the most effective methods for preventing abuse start with the user.
“Make sure the audience you share things with is the right audience,” she said. “What Facebook can’t control, and what no internet company can control, is the relationship you have with those people.”
She encouraged parents to begin having conversations with their children about online safety when they are still young.
“It starts with you taking to your kids, even before they are old enough to get on Facebook, the same way you would talk to them about looking both ways before they cross the street,” she said.
Lt. Matt Denn also attended the event and discussed the statewide school policy on cyber-bullying that he and Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden introduced earlier this month. The proposal, available at http://ltgov.delaware.gov/, is open for public comment until Nov. 5.
“It’s designed to prevent those things that can impact a student’s ability to come to school and learn,” he said.
Millsboro resident Jennifer Ernst said she learned a lot about how to protect her 13-year-old triplets, who attend Millsboro Middle School.
“I found it very informative,” she said. “One important thing they discussed is the 13-year-old age limit on using Facebook. My daughter said she was 91, so we’ll need to change that.”
Millsboro activist Elva D. Allen said the online safety night gave her a litany of new tools she planned to share with those in her community.
“I thought it was excellent and I learned a lot I think many of us didn’t know before,” she said. “It encouraged me to get online more and use some of these tools.”
Meanwhile, parent Yvonne Feddiman said she would like she the schools take a more active role in punishing cyber-bullies.
“My daughter has been the victim of cyber-bullying for the past six years and the schools won’t deal with it,” she said. “They need to do something about it instead of just sweeping it under the rug.”