When New Yorker Parry Aftab arrived at a Carihi’s student assembly Monday she said she wanted to create a “cyber army” to combat bullying.
An hour later she had started a movement of highly motivated “Teenangels.”
“This is going to become a huge movement,” North America’s best known cyber bullying authority told the students gathered around her.
Referring to the suicide death of Coquitlam teen Amanda Todd, she said: “I don’t want B.C. to be remembered as a place that harassed a girl to her death. We’re going to have B.C. remembered as a place that empowers young people to change the world.”
That empowerment in Campbell River will take the form of “a group of young people who will make the lives of others better,” she told cheering students. Teenangels, a division of WiredSafety.org, are aged 13 to 18 and are specially trained to help make the Internet safer. They write columns for websites and become expert public speakers and researchers. They work with companies like Disney, Microsoft and AOL and are trained by law enforcement agencies. They also make presentations to groups of students in schools and at community events. Getting the Internet privacy and security lawyer to spend two days this week working with Campbell River students, teachers and parents was something of a coup for School District 72. She is a sought-after celebrity endorsed by Doctor Phil and often a guest on the Today Show, CNN and Good Morning America.
After her presentation Aftab told a group of teens: “I want you to research the situation involving Amanda Todd and write a paper about it and that will be the beginning. I’ll teach you what you need to do and then you’ll run it.”
Aftab said, “We’re going to start doing research on bullying; we’ll write about it; we’ll speak out against it; we’ll meet with officials, we’ll talk to the prime minister about it.”
She said she has all the programs online that the students need to develop their own anti-bullying tools like websites and apps. Most of Aftab’s interactive presentation about cyber bullying revolved around the Amanda Todd suicide.
“Why do we care about Amanda?” she asked students.
They responded “because bullying doesn’t go away,” because it scars for life.”
She asked “how many things went wrong” in Amanda’s case?
The students responded:
“She showed her breasts online; those images were transferred…”
“A guy stalked her…”
“She was afraid to go to authorities…”
“She was beaten and thrown in a ditch…”
“She turned to the Internet for help…”
“…after drinking bleach people egged her on…”
“Her friends abandoned her…”
“Her parents were not supportive…”
The list was long and the students were well aware of the gruesome price Amanda paid.
“Who’s responsible?” Aftab asked the student body.
“Everyone,” the students replied in unison.
The New York attorney also took her message of empowerment to Timberline Secondary, Phoenix and Southgate middle schools and to a town hall meeting Tuesday evening.