A group of East Valley High School students have been working hard this school year to help others combat cyber-bullying.
They are the Internet Safety Training and Education Project (ISTEP) Mentors, a group of 10 high school students devoted to teaching other students and their parents and community about safe Internet behavior.
The group has done such a good job with their presentations they have been asked to present at the Children’s Justice Conference in Seattle on Monday and Tuesday. The conference’s keynote speaker is Elizabeth Smart, a woman who was abducted from her family home in 2002 and now advocates for children’s safety.
Kendra Morscheck, a junior, pointed out one of the fliers the group had posted in the hallway – “Think before you post,” the flier said.
The ISTEP students conducted a survey of students to learn about online behavior. Kendra Morscheck said 44 percent of East Valley students have shared personal information online. She emphasized that they should think about what they post, because colleges and employers are now checking Facebook pages to learn about applicants.
Colton Hanson, a freshman, said students often approach mentors if they are having a problem online. They are more comfortable talking to someone their own age and often have a fear of having their electronic devices taken away as punishment.
The group’s adviser, instructional technology specialist Cari Roderick, said she started the group about five years ago, when Educational Service District 101 offered an Internet safety grant.
“I jumped on that,” she said. But she struggled with how to deliver the message to students, since they all assumed she didn’t know anything about social networking sites. She started ISTEP Mentors to help with that.
“These guys,” she said of her students, “they’ll listen to them.”
The mentors give tips about cyber-bullying, identity theft and what to do if someone is “sexting” them over their cellphone. Roderick said they also talk about how to promote themselves positively online.
Morscheck said she got involved with the program when a teacher approached her about it in the seventh grade – there are four mentors at both East Valley Middle School and the Continuous Curriculum School. She got her sister, freshman Taylor Morscheck, interested in the group, too.
Hanson’s interest in the group sprang from personal experience.
“My sister – her MySpace profile got hacked,” he said. He remembered what she went through trying to get her profile removed from the site. He said he joined so “nobody would have to go through that again.”
Brandon Heide, a senior, said he had been bullied at the school he attended before East Valley. He said he seized the opportunity to help others in similar situations.
The group said they were getting a little nervous about presenting in Seattle next week. They know for sure that 50 people have registered for the workshop, but as many as 2,000 could show up.