JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
Parents can learn the risks and dangers their children are exposed to on social media, including online bullying, and what to do about it at the “Social Media Safety and Cyberbullying Awareness” workshop at the Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Vogel Resiliency Center, building 367, from 4 to 6 p.m. July 16.
The free workshop is open to JBSA servicemembers, spouses, retirees and Department of Defense civilians and is being conducted by the JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Family Life Program and the Army Suicide Prevention program.
Donnell Dawson, JBSA Family Life lead program educator and workshop instructor, said the workshop will cover the risks and benefits for children who use social media and the social media apps commonly used by children.
“There’s benefits (of social media), especially as a military child; you are going to have connections,” Dawson said. “You got to reach out to your friends, start new communities. But with that, there are also risks. So we talk about the pros and cons with it.
“We talk about what the apps look like, what they are and the uses,” she added. “There’s also a lot of hidden uses of specific apps. There’s ghost apps out there where users will hide photos, videos and text messaging. We talk a lot about that.”
The workshop will also educate parents on how to identify warning signs of children who are being bullied online and how to notice behaviors, including anxiety, depression and isolation, which are associated with bullying and could lead to suicide.
“We talk about what bullying looks like and what bullying through social media can look like,” Dawson said. “When we were kids growing up without our hand-held cell phones and Internet, bullying usually stopped at the schools, stopped the moment you left the playground and then you had a secure location at home. With social media, our children are actually relieving a lot of those experiences over and over.”
She said the workshop will have a step process for talking about cyberbullying, including how to identify it, how to communicate effectively to their children about it, what parents can do about it if it is occurring, who to contact at the children’s school and providing skills to their children in helping them cope with and overcome bullying.
“We can’t always shelter them from the bullying, but we can give them many tools to cope more successfully,” Dawson said.
Dawson said the topic of bullying is a new addition to the social media safety course, which has been taught for several years. She said the subject of bullying has been added because it is an issue of concern in both the local community and nationwide and to provide more outreach and resources to JBSA families about bullying.
According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, 34 percent of middle and high school students across the U.S. surveyed in 2016 reported experiencing cyberbullying in their lifetime.
In 2017, Texas enacted a law, known as “David’s Law,” that is aimed at preventing and taking measures to prevent cyberbullying. The law is named after David Molak, a 16-year-old high school student from San Antonio who committed suicide in 2016 after being bullied online.
Dawson said she will encourage parents at the workshop to speak freely on issues and concerns they have relating to social media and cyberbullying.
“We want it to be discussion based,” she said. “We want them to be able to bring their experiences and learn from one another and learn from us.”
To register for the “Social Media Safety and Cyberbullying Awareness” workshop, call 210-221-0349 or stop by the VRC, located at 2490 Stanley Road at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston in building 367, and request to be directed to the Family Life Program.