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Guilderland school district urges civility

Panel talks about interacting positively online and off

Around 70 people attended the panel discussion “Communicating in a Digital World: A conversation about civility and respect” at Guilderland High School on Tuesday, Jan. 14.

Around 70 people attended the panel discussion “Communicating in a Digital World: A conversation about civility and respect” at Guilderland High School on Tuesday, Jan. 14. Photo by John Purcell.

— Guilder said verbally abusing people online has become tolerated and the norm in our culture. She acknowledged that lecturing students to stop would not fix the problem.

“Our programs are really activity-based discussions with youth,” Guilder said. “We understand that going in and lecturing about these types of issues and these crimes is not effective.”

Tidd said adults need to set an example for their children to follow.

“They look to you as a role model, and they watch what you do,” she said.

Lesko said sometimes students will text during an admissions interview, but sometimes parents will be texting, too.

“We kind of chuckle about that, but when the parent does it, too, then you understand why,” she said. “It is something we need to teach them how to use in their life.”

Lutsic said any time a photo is shared or a status update is posted on a social network, it leaves a “lasting mark in the digital world,” which might not be able to be removed or erased. Interacting through social media offers a form of anonymity, Guilder said, through not allowing someone to see how their actions are affecting others.

Colleges typically will not look for information about an applicant online, according to Lesko, but if there is something in the student’s file, then admissions might turn to a search engine.

“If there is an incident in a file that we want to learn more about from an independent source, and we figure the newspaper might have it, we might Google search an incident to learn more about that,” Lesko said. “It is always good to Google yourself sometimes and figure out what is out there.”

Panelists recommend parents don’t let children have an isolated computer, but Lutsic also reminded them that a mobile phone is often a computer, too. Setting time and usage limits can help mitigate issues.

Lutsic said parents could always reach out to the school if they believe there could be an instance of cyberbullying, but reaching out to the other child’s parents could also help resolve the issue.

“I would always try and reach out … if it is something that you are catching fairly soon that you think can be ended reasonably quickly by perhaps a conversation,” he said. “I would always reach out to the other parents.”

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