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Online bullying targeted by speakers, kids at conference
Riverton eighth-grader Aubry Baker, left, and seventh-grader McKencie Lilygren, paired up to play a silly game Friday at Central Wyoming College during the Be the Change THAW Conference hosted by Fremont County School District 25. Photo by Alejandra Silva

Online bullying targeted by speakers, kids at conference

Mar 4, 2014 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The Riverton Middle School Be the Change Club organized this year's "Be the Change" conference Friday at Central Wyoming College. The event welcomed students from Dubois, Ethete, Pavillion, St. Stephen's, Lander, and Riverton schools to target bullying.

The theme was "THAW -- It's Time to Change Your Thoughts, Heart, Attitude,and Words."

The RMS anti-bullying club planned the event to invite Fremont County school students to open up about bullying.

"We want to let them know that they're not alone," said Amy Mayes, co-leader of club.

The conference included games, time to mingle with others, and a presentation from Riverton Police Department school resource officer Cody Myers.

Myers focused on Internet safety for teenagers. Online activity has changed the nature of bullying, he said. It has increased and affects a larger number students.

In a show of hands, most students in the audience acknowledged having an online profile, owning a cell phone, posting pictures and playing games online, and using the technology for both entertainment and research, as well as to communicate and socialize.

"Technology is good when it's used the right way," Myers said.

His presentation offered ways for students to discourage bullying such as not responding to threats, blocking the bully from online access to their accounts, saving the evidence, and reporting bullying to an adult.

Myers said young people can get into a lot of trouble when they decide to text nude pictures or inappropriate language, taunt others through online gaming, or send a threat in an instant message.

He said a student loses control of what he or she posts online because once it's shared it can be seen and saved by others without permission.

Myers spent more time encouraging students to be careful with their actions, such as not getting involved in video recording physical altercations or making hurtful comments to others.

"We have this meeting today because we care about you," said District 25 superintendent Terry Snyder. "It's your opportunity to be who you want to be."

He shared his advice and recommended students don't post unkind statements online when they are most upset about an issue. He also told students that people who bully are often having a tough time in their lives and end up with struggles as they get older.

"Bullies aren't successful in life," Snyder said.

A member of the Be the Change Club, seventh-grader Reid Anderson, said students would be able to take different ideas from the event to help them deal with bullying in their school. Anderson said the event took the club a long time to organize. He said it seemed to be successful. Students from different schools are talking to each other," he said during a break.

Students were encouraged to make use of school counselors, teachers, principals, school resource officers and other faculty to help deal with any issues in school.