DANVILLE — Michelle Gwinn Nutter told students at the Danville Area Middle School on Friday to think about the "pause button" in your head when it comes to bullying. If not, a snap judgment can have a lasting impact.
Nutter, the education and outreach program manager for the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General and a Pennsylvania-certified teacher, delivered the message to more than 500 sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students on Friday during a discussion about cyberbullying.
Danville Area Middle School Principal Jennifer Evans said she had a good conversation with parents about bullying Jan. 10. The school has a team of teachers working on preventing and responding to bullying "and doing things to improve the culture and relationships among students," she said.
Evans, who invited Nutter to speak, expects her to return at the start of the next term of school in August to speak on similar topics.
"I had been bullied a couple times by eighth-graders," 11-year-old Navaeh Seabrook said after Nutter spoke Friday.
Navaeh said she contacted an adult and the bullying ceased some time ago.
She said she learned from Nutter's presentation that people can go to jail for cyber bullying.
Wyatt Shultz, also 11, said he learned that bullying can "be very hurtful and words can hurt." He said he hasn't been bullied, doesn't know anyone who has been a victim, but knows it goes on in school.
"Think before you post and before you speak," said Nutter, education and outreach program manager for the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General and a Pennsylvania-certified teacher.
"Once you put words out there, we cannot take them back," she said. She told students what they put on their digital footprint "is out there and your future can depend on what you put out there."
She said students must be at least 13 years old to post on Snapchat and asked sixth-graders who post on there to raise their hands.
"Snapchat owns every picture you send and can sell every picture that goes through their platform. They sell to marketing companies to determine trends and how to advertise to kids your age," she said. "The photos never disappear from their server."
Nutter, who conducted three programs before 550 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, showed a video of a 13-year-old girl who made online death threats, was arrested, taken to a detention center and expelled from school.
The arrested girl, who was bullied, unfortunately hadn't contacted a trusted adult about being bullied, she said. "It is important to think about a pause button in your brain," she said. "This girl made a choice that really changed her future," she said.
Someone who sends something mean to another student can be charged with cyber harassment of a minor, Nutter said.
She added that she disagreed with the saying "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me." She said words can hurt and the hurt can continue for a long time afterward. Those words can cause stress, anxiety, fear and depression, she said.
Nutter said boys typically engage in direct bullying, such as name calling. Girls statistically will pretend to be someone's friend and, after that person walks away, say mean things about the person, she said.
Nutter cited a national survey on cyber bullying from three years ago, which stated 43 percent of middle and high school students said they were bullied online. That number is now at 47 percent, according to Nutter. She said 70 percent saw bullying online in the study, but that number is now up to 71 percent. The study stated that 90 percent had their feelings hurt online, which is now at 91 percent, she said.
Some students indicated they were on their phones for up to 10 hours a day. Nutter said the more time spent online opens up opportunities for bad choices.
"Be proud of who you are, your hobbies and things you like doing. Focus on yourself and be the best you can be," she told students in the auditorium.
If you know of someone who is being bullied, stand up for the student and let an adult know it is going on, she said.
"Unfortunately, there are internet trolls out there throughout your life. The best way to handle them is to walk away," she said.
"If someone asks you to send an inappropriate photo, the answer should always be no. There is no guarantee that only that person will see the picture. We've had a lot of schools with this happening," she said, citing a picture that was sent to hundreds of people.
"If you take an inappropriate picture of yourself, you could be charged with child pornography and if you send it, you could be charged with a distribution charge and it's a serious offense," she said.