McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State House

October 9, 2013

Good digital citizenship: Waller emphasizing student appropriateness, responsibility, boundaries

ENID, Okla. — Waller Middle School has a new focus to go along with having embraced a “Bring Your Own Device” approach to technology. The school is teaching students good digital citizenship.

Adam Beauchamp, Waller principal, said teachers and administrators will have a year-long emphasis on helping students understand how appropriateness, boundaries, etiquette and social responsibility apply to social media and technology.

“We’re teaching the kids about being responsible citizens of the technology age,” Beauchamp said.

School officials want students to have a thorough understanding, not only how to use technology, but also what is and is not acceptable, Beauchamp said. The Internet has changed the nature of bullying. Posting mean thoughts online makes those hurtful words linger — and hurt people — forever.

“It used to be that if I said something about somebody, I said it to one person,” Beauchamp said. “Today, if I post it on the Internet, I say it to everyone — and I say it forever.”

Not only do hurtful words about someone stay around forever, so do all the other things people post online. In that regard, postings can come back to haunt the poster.

“It’s a resumé when kids are talking on the Internet,” Beauchamp said.

Potential employers will do Internet searches and see things applicants have posted online. Those things give employers glimpses into the lives of the applicants.

“You can’t defend it, and we want to make our kids aware of the consequences,” Beauchamp said.

Catina Sundvall, a counselor at ATS Counseling-Focus Institute, told students at a Wednesday assembly that cyber-bullying can cause long-standing pain.

“It becomes really easy now to send someone a nasty text on Facebook,” Sundvall said. “These things really hurt. A lot.”

She encouraged students to stop and think before they post, considering whether people who care about them would be OK with what they post or text.

“Think about what you’re saying,” Sundvall said. “Are you saying it because you want to hurt someone? To make yourself more powerful? Do you ever think about how someone might feel if you say something to them?”

ATS Focus honored Unity Day Wednesday, an event that encourages people to unite against bullying.

“We also encourage clients and peers throughout the community to join us in this stance,” said Nicole Winfield, outreach program director at ATS Counseling Focus Institute. “We want to show that we are there for, and support the victims of bullying, and let them know they are not alone.”

ATS Focus had a banner in the lobby of its Enid office for community members to come in and sign as a show of their support.

“When a child comes in needing counseling for being bullied, we’d love to pull out this banner and remind them they are not alone, and all these people who signed the banner stand behind them,” Winfield said. “It’s sadly a common challenge kids face, and thankfully they can come and seek our clinician’s support to get through it.”

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