International youth summit in Charlottetown will target cyberbullying

Jim Day
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Representatives from Facebook, Microsoft and Google to attend Prince Edward Island summit

To learn more about the 2013 International Stop Cyberbullying Youth Summit Nov. 9 in Charlottetown or to register, visit www.stopcyberbullying.org.

Parry Aftab, executive director of stopcyberbullying.org, challenged students at Grace Christian School Thursday to engage in thoughtful discussion about cyberbullying. 

Parry Aftab is confident that youth can come up with clever and effective ways to combat cyberbullying.

She is in the process of rounding up some young, deep thinkers from right across the province.

Aftab, the executive director of stopcyberbullying.org — a volunteer organization dedicated to online safety — is hitting P.E.I. schools to recruit thought leaders who are able to think outside of the box while also discussing cyberbullying issues with hundreds of students.

She has a special purpose in gathering together a good crop of thoughtful students: the 2013 International Stop Cyberbullying Youth Summit to be held in Charlottetown on Nov. 9.

The handpicked Prince Edward Island students will be among some 400 students in total from grades 4 to 12 joined by about 200 adults at the youth summit.

The students, stresses Aftab, are the ones to turn to for answers to deal with the immense harm taking place in P.E.I. and around the world through cyberbullying — a growing practice Aftab describes as using digital technology as a weapon to hurt someone else.

Industry leaders, including high-level representatives from Facebook, Microsoft and Google, will be attending the summit in the capital city.

Barbara Coloroso, one of the leading experts in the world on bullying, is waiving her speaking fee to participate.

Sharon Rosenfeld, who created Victims of Violence after notorious child killer Clifford Olson murdered her son, is also taking part in the youth summit.

A host of other stakeholders, from health-care professionals to law enforcement, will also be among the diverse delegates.

The key participants, however, will be students, says Aftab. This group, coming from a good cross-section of backgrounds and cultures, will be front and centre.

"So when I turn to a sixth grader and say 'What can we get from Facebook that will make my kids safer?' and the kids give me answers, those answers are really relevant and they work because the kids are the ones in the midst of all of this,'' she says.

"So I am reaching out to the kids who are very good at facilitating ideas, thinking, brainstorming and I'm giving them all of the experts they could possibly need to pick from.''

Aftab, who lives in Charlottetown with her husband Allan McCullough, created the StopCyberbullying Coalition to help address cyberbullying and digital abuse issues. Members include Facebook, AOL, Microsoft, Disney and Yahoo!

She says parents need to learn how to recognize cyberbullying and also to appreciate the pain that it causes. Youth need to be taught not to cross the line into cyberbullying when using cell phones or other digital devices.

"We have to stop this,'' says Aftab.

"We've had two serious cases of sextortion that have occurred here on the Island up in the Westisle area and sextortion leads to suicide faster than any other type of digital abuse.''

Sextortion is a type of exploitation that involves coercion to extort sexual favours from the victim. It is also a type of blackmail in which sexual images or videos are used to force sexual favours from the victim.

Aftab, who has spearheaded youth summits at the U.S. Senate, is optimistic the 2013 International Stop Cyberbullying Youth Summit next month in Charlottetown will lead to constructive change.

"At the end of the day, we will have a written action plan,'' says Aftab.

"We need to focus on parents and teaching them more about these issues. We need to get the word out on awareness. We need to give the kids a helpline online (that is) live kid supported.''

"So it will be a list of what we need to do and then they (summit participants) will also identify the stakeholders that need to be involved to make that happen,'' she adds.

"We're going to have an action plan.''

Organizations: Microsoft, Google, International Stop Cyberbullying Youth Summit StopCyberbullying Coalition Yahoo! U.S. Senate

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, Westisle

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Recent comments

  • Anonymous
    November 10, 2013 - 09:32

    this was not fun at all. the kids had NO speak of it, and i thought it was supposed to be for kids, not adults. wasted my time. And, the weird thing is, I'm a kid. i was the most bored i could ever be. my back hurt, i needed to stretch my legs, but i couldn't. it was the worst Saturday of my life. Thanks to you. The guy who said you where bullying, well he was right. i respected him because he was the one who actually had the courage to speak the truth, and i thought that was amazing. i really wish i didn't go. the kids really had no part in it.

  • janet nation- mackinnon
    October 15, 2013 - 09:39

    I am becoming so excited about the up coming summit. As I research more information and stats, about cyber bullying, outside of Parrys excellent site information.It is popping up EVERYWHERE. I have a great desire to become a Voice for this cause Globally as I start here in P.E.I.

  • Brenda Myers
    October 07, 2013 - 10:41

    Hi Parry, I think what you are doing is wonderful. I am interested in having someone to come into our school to speak to our student body about cyberbullying. Can you help me out by either coming to our school or recommending someone who would be great at sending a strong message to our students. Thank you Brenda Myers, Youth Worker Morell High

  • Welcome
    October 04, 2013 - 07:31

    What a wonderful calling - thank you Perry Aftab for you passion in this cause - and for making PEI your home. Wishing you all the success!!

  • vick
    October 04, 2013 - 05:59

    I see no mention of ASK.FM this has to be the worse site for such behaviour and I can only one reason such a site would be created! A social media site that you can hide behind, PLEASE the powers to be SHUT this site down for our kids sake! For those that have never been on this site please go check it out you will see what I am talking about!

    • Parry Aftab
      October 05, 2013 - 21:39

      Vick: I am very familiar with ask.fm. They are run out of Latvia, which makes it more difficult to regulate them. We have handled many cases of kids being cyberbullied on ask. In the UK they have experienced many suicides linked to cyberbullying on ask.fm. Petitions are created by even the prime minister of England. we have to make it uncool to use ask, and teach our kids ot use the settings they have recently added. I suggest you visit wiredsafety.org, one of my sites, and read what I have written.

  • Parry Aftab
    October 03, 2013 - 22:03

    Thank you for the kind coverage of the Island students' efforts to help inspire change to stop cyberbullying. I have found so many amazing students on PEI to choose from. They care in the way only Islanders can care. I firmly believe that they can empower others. The one message I have heard, from Kensington to Belfast, Montague to Souris...the students think parents are crucial to the stop cyberbullying solutions. Parents need to understand how to recognize cyberbullying and appreciate how much it hurts. It's heart-warming to see students who trust their parents. The Island is a special place. thanks for sharing your kids with me.

    • Allie Devries
      November 09, 2013 - 12:47

      Thank you for your work on behalf of our children, Parry. My son Kellen has thoroughly enjoyed working with you on the summit. And yes, Prince Edward Island is a very special place to raise children!