Open Your Eyes

Posted on 3rd March 2009

Thanks to a twitter post by Simon Phipps this morning, I read with interest a blog post by Patrick Finch, entitled Mozilla and Cybermentors. Mozilla are getting actively involved with the UK charity BeatBullying and their CyberMentors programme.

It's unlikely that anyone growing up hasn't suffered some form of bullying. It comes in all shapes and forms, and while for some of it may be minor or only last a short time, for some it can have devasating effects. A colleague recently took his own life, because the traumatic and abuse he suffered through primary and secondary school, even over ten years later, was still something that affected his life and personality, and was something he felt he could no longer cope with. I personally was first bullied by my 3rd year junior teacher. Yes you read that right a teacher, and I was just 9. It isn't just children that can be cruel and spiteful, adults can too. While I would dearly love to name the teacher in question, I have no proof beyond my word, and even now feel powerless to do anything about it, much as I did back then. Many children who suffer from bullying feel exactly the same way. Even if they told, who would listen and who would even believe them?

As Patrick points out in his post, many young people are growing up never knowing how we used to keep in contact with our friends, without using the internet or mobile phones. We play out so much of our lives online, that it shouldn't be a surprise that a recent Harvard University task force concluded that one of the biggest risks to children on the internet, isn't from sexual predators, but from bullies. The difference between the school yard bulling and cyber-bullying, is that the former is pretty much contain within a small sphere and often there are adults and peers who can deal with it and stop it. On the internet anyone can hide behind their relative anonymity and victimise just about anyone they choose. As it isn't within school grounds, teachers are often unable or ill-equiped to deal with it.

As such, the Cybermentors aims to be a way for youngsters experiencing bullying online to tell someone about it. Mozilla are offering to support 10 members of the Mozilla community to be trained as Cybermentors, who can then spend at least 2 hours a week for 4 months, helping children to cope and deal with any bullying issues. All credit to Mozilla for supporting this, and hopefully other companies will also be willing to help fund training for individuals to act as mentors.

A few years ago the GetSafeOnline campaign was initiated to help make parents and youngsters aware of the potential dangers on the internet. Identifying ways to protect themselves from viruses, phishing scams and spam, as well as unwanted websites, chatrooms and the like. While this programme is different in that it's targeting a very specific danger, it is still all about keeping the internet safe for everyone. I personally value efforts such as this, rather than the sometimes heavy-handed and misguided attempts by governments and self-appointed puritans of the internet to protect children from percieved threats.

I really hope BeatBullying and the Cybermentors programme gets a lot of internet and media exposure, as the more children are aware of it, the more chance they have of coping with it and not suffering mental anguish for the whole of their (possibly short) adult life. If you're a member of the Mozilla community, and think you can spare the time, please read Patrick's blog post and get in touch with him.

File Under: internet / life / school / security / web

What I Go To School For

Posted on 6th July 2007

Following my adventures in Houston last week, Nicole mentioned to DanDan's teacher that I could show the class my photos. They have recently been doing a class project about space and specifically the Apollo 11 moon landing.

So today I went in to do a short 15 minute presentation. Nicole thought 5-10 minutes would be enough, but I think the kids would have happily talked for an hour :)

I picked out a few photos and talked about the rockets, capsules, moon landings, mission control, the mockups, the international space station, the space shuttle and the Saturn V rocket. As I knew they'd already done the class project, I prompted them for answers, which they really relished. I got asked whether there was an Apollo 24, how did the spacemen go to toilet, how did they have a shower, how the rocket got into space, how they got back to Earth among many many others. They also enjoyed telling me about all the things they'd learnt too. They knew the astronauts had to be strapped in when they went to sleep, and that they ate lots of dried food. Not sure if they quite understood that it was freeze-dried and rehydrated, plus they also got a bit confused with the idea of a monkey and a dog landing on the moon, but it was great to see they has such a fascination of the subject, including the girls too.

Mrs Clarke, their teacher, seemed to enjoy the presentation too and confessed that she even remembers watching the moon landing on television. I was only 4 :)

File Under: dandan / family / school / space

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