Last month, the Rye Neck Middle and High School community grew more attuned to the perils of technology as a result of eye-opening lectures by student safety national expert Katie Koestner.
By Janice Llanes Fabry
Last month, the Rye Neck Middle and High School community grew more attuned to the perils of technology as a result of eye-opening lectures by student safety national expert Katie Koestner. The talks were part of the Middle School’s “No Place for Hate” program, whose mission is to create a respectful culture and instill safe and appropriate online practices.
Koestner’s message was loud and clear. “Everything on social media is tractable, traceable, and retrievable. There’s no such thing as gone for good.”
The founder of Take Back The Night, an international non-profit organization that works to end sexual violence, Koestner, who has appeared on the cover of Time magazine, came to the attention of Middle School Guidance Counselor Meegan Lawlor at a lecture several years ago.
“Ms. Koestner is engaging, entertaining, and really knows her material. She has spoken at over 1,600 schools in North America,” said Lawlor, who worked with administrators and fellow counselor Chris Spillane to bring Koestner to Rye Neck. “Parents and students learned a lot from her, especially about the permanence of our online behavior and the impact it can have on a child’s life.”
Koestner provides a cyber smarts curriculum, as well as pre-event surveys beforehand to determine where to focus her attention. Tailoring her talks to the different grades, as well as to parents, Koestner connected with her audiences with real-life situations, provocative scenarios, and hard statistics. Middle School students were prepared for the weighty subject matter through cyber bullying discussions with Principal Eric Lutinski, School Psychologist Michelle Lividini, as well as the guidance counselors.
When addressing the high school students, Koestner emphasized the fact that college admissions departments are relying more heavily upon social media, i.e. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. In addition, digital data, such as photos and videos, are “all fair game.” She warned students of the real possibility that inappropriate posts can close doors to many opportunities. “There’s no such thing as anonymity on the Internet.”
Koestner urged students to care about themselves and their futures. “Be as strong and confident as you can, so no one has a right to mistreat and disrespect you.”
The powerful presentation was sponsored by the Rye Neck schools and PTSA and through an Anti-Defamation Award.