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Cybercivility Task Force gears into action


During a bout of cold weather, some students and parents fired a round of harsh tweets directed toward MCPS Superintendent Dr. Joshua P. Starr for his refusal to close schools. In the weeks that ensued, Dr. Starr penned an open-letter to MCPS parents, advocated on behalf of cyber-bullying education, and conjured a plan for strategic student involvement in a countywide anti-bullying campaign. The appeal, entitled “Cybercivility”, urges parents to assume an active role in their children’s online activities and to discuss the consequences of social media misuse.

In order to further tone down such online outbursts, Dr. Starr and other administrators have created a Cybercivility Task Force comprised of students, teachers, and community members dedicated to spreading knowledge about cyber-etiquette. Task force members will collaborate with one another to increase public awareness of the relatively obscure issue.

In today’s increasingly digital society, online harassment has become a pervasive and ubiquitous issue affecting millions of people regardless of their age, race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. People at all levels of society have been affected by online intimidation. Studies in the Journal of Applied Psychology have proven that online aggressors feel protected by a false sense of invincibility, which clouds their decision-making and drives them to make rash, imprudent comments.

Poolesville High School junior Delaney Gregg supports the popular theory. “I think people feel safe on the internet because of [their] relative anonymity, so they act out and say harsh things. They’re just really cruel and say things that they wouldn’t say in real life… [some people] get on the internet and think [they] can do whatever [they] want.”

Inappropriate online comments can leave lasting impressions on the offender’s life. College admissions officials have become increasingly mindful of applicants’ online presences. A recent poll by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) office in Houston revealed that a startling 75 percent of employers surveyed conducted regular social media background checks. In such instances, a single offensive comment or phrase made by a potential student or employee in perfect standing could taint his or her professional reputation.

The MCPS task force has its critics. Churchill High School PTSA President Robyn Posner Solomon believes schools are fairly restricted in their ability to affect change. “I just think its parents’ responsibility to talk to their children,” she explains.

“We really want this to be very organic,” explained Public Information Officer Dana Tofig. “We want this group of people to come together and guide us in this conversation.”

The Cybercivility Task Force will meet once a month from March to August.

Article by Mahya Bigdeli, MoCo Student staff writer

About The MoCo Student

In 2012, Student Member of the Board of Education John Mannes created a countywide press network to help build a conduit to share fresh and relevant information written by youth to the wider Montgomery County student body.

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