Adults called to face fears about cyber world

Adults called to face fears about cyber world
 March 8, 2009 

SANTA CRUZ — Adults who ignore the unfamiliar and sometimes daunting world of the Internet often fail to offer children and youth much needed guidance about safe and appropriate online activities, according to experts who spoke Friday at the 12th annual Jon Nadherny/Calciano Memorial Youth Symposium.

“Kids are growing up inside the Internet,” said Frank Farley, professor at Temple University and former president of the American Psychological Association.

Farley, a keynote speaker for “Cyberpsychology: The Internet and Youth in the New Millennium,” held at the Cocoanut Grove in Santa Cruz, calls himself “a digital immigrant” who struggles to understand the Internet world of his own two teens.

For today’s youth, the first generation born into the digital age, instant messaging and texting is second nature. While it’s OK that adults and youth experience technology differently, adults often back away from technology, leaving children to fend online for themselves, according to Lori Getz, a teacher and founder of Los Angeles-based Cyber Education Consultants. Getz, another keynote speaker, provides curriculum and training to schools.
On Friday, she urged adults to not leave it to children to find their way in the instantly global cyber world but to translate the rules of the physical world to the digital world. If you wouldn’t let a child go out the door with strangers, you shouldn’t let them spend Internet time with strangers, she said.

Students in Santa Cruz schools are seeing problems related to cyberbullying, said Irene Medina, a counselor with Mission Hill Middle School in Santa Cruz.

Cyberbullying involves online smear campaigns of individuals, harassment, embarrassing remarks or threats. “MySpace is a huge place where people bully one another,” Medina said. “Girls are really vicious with one another on MySpace.”

So many Internet dangers can be avoided when children and youth are educated, Getz said. They need to know two main things: everything on the Internet is public and permanent.

The half-day conference is the 12th educational symposium to honor Jon Ervin Nadherny, who was 23 when he took his own life in 1995 as the result of acute depression. The forums, created by family, friends, service providers and Dominican Hospital Foundation, target frontline defense workers.

“We want to honor everyone on the first line of a crisis and to provide a symposium that they can afford,” said Linda Calciano, Jon Nadherny’s mother. “My mission has been to have this model on how to deal with our tragic loss.”

Jon Nadherny, an experienced backpacker and Eagle Scout who enjoyed mountain climbing and skiing, was a native of Palo Alto. He graduated from Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose. Six months before he died, he graduated from the UC Davis with a degree in international agricultural development. He would’ve been 37 this year.