LAKE ASBURY – According to Richard Guerry, founder of the Institute for Responsible Online Cellphone Communication, the best way to combat cyberbullying is to approach the internet as a place where …
LAKE ASBURY – According to Richard Guerry, founder of the Institute for Responsible Online Cellphone Communication, the best way to combat cyberbullying is to approach the internet as a place where nothing is private.
Guerry spoke at Lake Asbury Junior High School told seventh graders and some eighth graders on Oct. 26 to keep a close eye on their online presence as they make their way into their teens. He warned students about posting items online that might have negative consequences in their lives.
“I’m trying to help all kids understand that technology is a tool, and how you use that tool determines your outcome,” Guerry said. “Rather than try and hide bad things, create things that make you look awesome. If you’re not being irresponsible in the real world, then nothing bad will get out online.”
Guerry’s lecture wrapped up a series of four talks at Clay County Schools to recognize October as National Bullying Prevention Month. The first two sessions were hosted by Deputy Chris Padgett with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office and dealt with cyberbullying from a law enforcement perspective, including talks at Wilkinson and Lakeside Junior High Schools.
The following two presentations featured Guerry, from New Jersey-based IROC2, who spoke about cyberbullying and cyber security for teens and the dos and don’ts of social media and smartphone usage. Guerry travels the country delivering his message to students and puts on about 215 of his hour-long lectures every year. His organization is a nonprofit, and his only goal is to get his message out to as many kids as possible to prevent them from ruining their lives before they even realize what they’ve done.
“I want to get to them early,” Guerry said. “I want to teach children how to be safe now, so I’m implanting that safety in middle schools [before they’re in high school or college].”
His presentation was animated and exciting, causing a few uproars from the young audience as he flipped through countless news stories of people whose lives were ruined by their irresponsible activities online or with their phones.
He shared stories of people accidentally sharing nude photos of themselves, going on Twitter rampages and losing athletic scholarships, and a few recent commercials that deal with accidentally pressing “Reply all” on an email chain and sending out something that could potentially get a person fired. Though his methods aimed to get the kids’ attention, his message was rather serious.
To start things off he walks on stage with a lighter. The lighter served as a metaphor that Guerry continued to return to throughout the talk. According to him, technology is like fire, it can be used for so many good things, but if you use it incorrectly, you will get burned.
Guerry said posts that may seem innocent at the time could blow up into something that would prevent them from getting a job or getting into the college of their choice. He said college recruiters are now able to go back five to seven years online when choosing between future students’ prospects.
As technology continues to improve, this number will increase further. Guerry said this generation is sort of the test that will set the bar for future generations on internet safety. He compared this to the early smokers and athletes who learned of the effects of cigarettes or concussions after it was too late. With technology, Guerry wants kids to make positive choices now to set the bar high, instead of being like the smokers and athletes and realizing what they’ve done when it’s too late to go back and change their minds.
“One of the worst myths on the planet is that you can be anonymous online,” Guerry said. “Pure anonymity is impossible, especially through an app on your phone.”
Guerry’s message was clear – only post things online that promote the parts of your life that you would want the entire world to see, because when you post it online the entire world will be able to see it. He said all the wonderful, good things that can come from technology, it makes our lives easier and makes communication much more convenient, but each benefit of technology can also create problems when you or someone else has created negative content about you online.
“Our offline lives are being brought online whether we like it or not,” Guerry said. “But you shouldn’t care what’s online if you look awesome offline.”