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Students, parents get the lowdown on cyber safety

Charles Leitch  discusses cyber safety with Evergreen Middle School students on Thursday morning. “You want to be careful,” he said about sending emails, texts or photos. - Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter
Charles Leitch discusses cyber safety with Evergreen Middle School students on Thursday morning. “You want to be careful,” he said about sending emails, texts or photos.
— image credit: Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter

With Lake Washington School District (LWSD) moving toward a one-on-one computing model in which each student receives a netbook computer for their studies, it’s clear that technology is being integrated into the curriculum.

But with great technology comes great responsibility.

This was the message Charles Leitch wanted to send to students at Evergreen Middle School (EMS) in Redmond Thursday morning.

“You want to be careful,” he cautioned them.

During his presentation, Leitch, a Seattle attorney who represents school districts and other public entities, stressed the importance of thinking before acting. He told students that once they post something online, send an email or text message, it’s out there for the world to see.

“You lose control the minute you send that photo,” he said. “Anything you post will be found at some point.”

This being said, Leitch — who has been speaking to school administrators, parents and students nationwide on the subject of cyber safety for about four years — encouraged the students to set privacy settings on any public profiles or accounts they may have to make it more difficult for their information to get into the wrong hands.

While people can control what they say and how they say it, Leitch said they can’t control how others take it and how it affects them. He said this is especially true online as we can’t see their reactions. Because of this, Leitch told EMS students to pay attention to others’ feelings and whether the comment they post or the picture they send might be hurtful.

“It’s really easy to lose sight of that when you’re online,” he said.

As with any other type of bullying or harassment, LWSD has policies in place to deal with this type of cyber-bullying.

Dr. Ken Lyon, LWSD harassment, intimidation and bullying compliance officer, said as soon as they are aware of a case of cyber-bullying, they will investigate and work to put a stop to it.

“When we are aware of something, we investigate thoroughly and promptly,” he said.

According to its website, LWSD defines cyber-bullying as “bullying that takes place using electronic technology.” This includes electronic devices such as cell phones, tablets and computers, as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat and websites.

In addition to his visit to EMS, Leitch will be speaking at other schools throughout the district. He will also give parent-education seminars at LWSD high schools through February.

Leitch said parents are on the frontline between their children and potential dangers online. His presentation will help parents understand how to protect their children in what is an increasingly connected world through phones, mobile devices and online social media. The seminar will help parents approach the use of technology with their children so they can help their children understand the risks of electronic activity. Leitch will also address the role of schools and the legal limits they currently face.

“Cyber-bullying and related risks in the use of social media and technology is an important topic among our Lake Washington families. We want to provide parents with the tools they need to better understand how to help children who engage in these connected spaces,” said Lyon. “We are fortunate to have a dynamic presenter in Charles Leitch, whose expertise in this challenging area for families is invaluable.”

Leitch will provide a lecture and review of the subject followed by a 30-minute question-and-answer session.

Leitch’s first seminar was Thursday evening at Juanita High School, with future seminars scheduled for Redmond High School (17272 N.E. 104th St. in Redmond) on Jan. 14, Lake Washington High School (12033 N.E. 80th St. in Kirkland) on Jan. 23 and Eastlake High School (400 228th N.E. in Sammamish). All seminars are sponsored by LWSD and the Lake Washington PTSA Council and will be from 7-9 p.m.

For more information, contact the LWSD PTSA office at (425) 936-1215 or programs@lwptsa.net.

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