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Impact of technology in a digital world focus of symposium at Grenfell Campus

Dr. Jennifer Shapka of the University of British Columbia speaks during a technology symposium Friday at Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook.
Dr. Jennifer Shapka of the University of British Columbia speaks during a technology symposium Friday at Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook. - Dave Kearsey

Chih-Ying Huang has seen her share of sadness from traditional bullying or cyberbullying in her native Taiwan so when she got a chance to find out more about the impact technology is having in a growing digital world she wasn’t going to pass it up.

The 24-year-old student was among the crowd who attended a technology symposium hosted by Grenfell Campus Friday afternoon in Corner Brook.

Dr. Jennifer Shapka of the University of British Columbia, Dr. Ryan Broll of the University of Guelph and Dr. Faye Mishna of the University of Toronto were the guest speakers for the two-hour session.

They shared their findings in recent studies on bullying and cyberbullying and provided a sense of how parents and children can keep themselves safe yet still enjoy the benefits that come with access to the internet.

Huang has never been victimized by a bully by any means, but her sister was constantly bullied growing up and her sister kept it to herself and nobody knew what she was going through it. Her sister didn’t open up about it until years later.

She wished she had been aware, so she could have tried to help.

A lot of her friends weren’t as lucky. Cyberbullying has caused its share of grief in her country and she thinks it’s sad that the world has come to such a place.

“A lot of teenagers in my country have committed suicide over cyberbullying,” she said. “People can be very mean when they hide themselves behind a screen and it’s hard.”

She found the information shared by the trio of experts very helpful. She left with a lot of information to absorb and she’s happy she took time out of her day to attend.

Dr. Shapka’s talk centered around the vision, development and realization of a new website (cyberbullying.primus.ca) designed to help parents deal with a new digital world that is here to stay.

“Parents need to know their child and have a really trusting and open relationship with their child, and to know their child well enough to know they are acting off today,” Dr. Shapka said.

She said younger children need some good family rules instilled that are negotiated with the child them so they are part of the conversation and feel like they have a say.

Rules like no devices in the bedroom or so many minutes of screen time per day are all good things to do, she said, but making them see why it’s in the best interest is equally important.

“But I think the key is sticking to them and it will be hard and there will be pushback,” she said. “But if you can be consistent and say these are the rules and everybody follows them and set them early and be consistent with them because it will carry into when you have less say because the older the kids get they’ve got their own devices you can’t control.”

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