Geneva church offers talk on cyberbulling

Published: 6/28/2008 12:04 AM

As if parents didn't have enough to worry about, you can add cyberspace as a fertile ground for fear.

Use of the Internet by children as a means to demean and ridicule peers is so widespread it has a name: cyber-bullying. Experts say it can lead to lowered self-esteem, hurt feelings and, in extreme cases, suicide.

To help parents prevent their children from being harmed online, the United Methodist Church of Geneva is presenting "A Parent's Guide to Cyber Safety: How to Navigate Today's Techno-Fears."

The seminar will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the church, Hamilton and Second streets in Geneva.

According to Pete DuMelle of Lilly Lake, a technology consultant who has created a Web site on how to prevent cyber-bullying, 42 percent of children have experienced being bullied through technology, and 1 out of 4 of this percentage have been victims more than once.

DuMelle will be a presenter at the seminar, along with Christie Clarke, founder and director of Out-a-Box Parenting Group.

DuMelle says most cyber-bullying occurs among children from sixth grade into high school.

"Kids are using the same technology we have at work to make fun of each other," DuMelle said. "It can be as simple as an e-mail or text (message) that says, 'I hate you' or 'Kill yourself.' Or they use blogs to talk about how horrible another child is. Some create online surveys about who is the ugliest."

While some children and teens find increased self-esteem in joining a gang, now others are finding an identity through attracting a cyber audience while hurting others, he adds.

Although DuMelle will discuss technology prevention solutions at the seminar, he says that loading more software isn't the solution.

"Communication is the key," DuMelle said. "Parents need to know what's going on and offer support. They need to talk to their children about what they might find on the Internet."

Jami Johnson, director of Stephen and Lay Ministries for the United Methodist Church, is facilitating the seminar.

She says parents will learn five cyber etiquette skills to teach their children.

"This seminar is important to me because I have children who are 7 and 10 who are using the computer more," Johnson said. "And for me our church community is an extended family."

The cost to attend the seminar is $5 per family. Reservations are welcome but not necessary.

To register, call Johnson at (630) 232-7120.