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Pine-Richland students weigh in on cyber-bullying

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Social media panelists Zach Skirpan, Grace Ficco, Gabrielle Romeo and Andrew Nussbaum, along with with teacher Stacey Spencer.

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Great power comes with great responsibility when it comes to using social media say some tech-savvy students from Pine-Richland High School.

Seniors Zach Skirpan, Gabrielle Romeo, Andrew Nussbaum and Grace Ficco represented Pine-Richland on a panel about social media and bullying for an episode of WQED's iQ: Smartparent series.

The episode, the sixth and final one of the series discussing parenting and media, is titled “Like, Follow, Share.”

The students taped the program on Nov. 19. It will air at 8 p.m. Dec. 12 on WQED.

There were also students from other schools on the panel, said Stacey Spencer, learning support teacher and senior class sponsor.

Spencer was approached about the WQED program by a couple of friends who work with cyber-security and bullying to see if she knew some students who could help with the panel.

“I've worked with them for the past four years, so I know them well,” Spencer said of the student panelists, noting that the foursome makes up the executive board for the high school's student government.

“They are going to represent the school very well.”

Bullying through social media is a problem at Pine-Richland, as it is at all high schools, the student panelists agreed.

“When kids post things, they don't know the implications of what they're saying,” Skirpan said in an interview prior to the taping.

Twitter is the most popular social media platform for high school students, said Romeo and Ficco, and it presents an array of problems.

“Subtweeting is a big issue,” Romeo said. “You can say something about someone without using their name, but insinuate it's about them.”

“And you can have an anonymous user name and not be known,” Ficco added.

There isn't one clear answer on how to stop bullying and prevent it from occurring in the future, but the panelists have a few ideas on what could help.

Bringing more awareness to the issue and encouraging kids to relate to one another could help.

“It would help to talk in large groups and make people aware that everyone is going through the same thing,” Ficco said.

“The OLWEUS program helps, and to get kids to understand how it affects people,” Romeo said.

The OLWEUS Bullying Prevention Program is used by Pine-Richland and other area schools.

Nussbaum said the OLWEUS program is most effective in Eden Hall Upper Elementary School, which is when students begin to use social media heavily.

“By the time they're in the high school, it's too late,” he said.

The student panelists agreed that most students use some form of social media by the time they're in fifth or sixth grade.

Another thing young social media practitioners need to remember is the permanence of social media and other things posted on the Internet.

“Some people are very blind to the fact that it could be out there forever,” Skirpan said.

“That's why we preach to them to make good decisions. If you don't post anything bad, then you won't have anything to worry about.”

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or rfarkas@tribweb.com.

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