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Westport Students Learn to Become Cyber-Allies

Westport seventh-grader Jane Levy is going to stand up to cyber-bullying. And she's not alone. Wednesday night, she and 15 other Westport middle school students talked about cyber-bullying and how they can take steps to stop it during a three-hour training workshop called CyberALLY.

"It was a great learning experience," Jane said. "I really took a lot out of it."

Created by the Anti-Defamation League's A World of Difference Institute, the program aims to educate students about what cyber-bullying is and how to identify it. Most importantly, it promotes the idea of being a cyber-ally, or someone who stands-up to cyber-bullying when they see it.

While the program focuses on empowering students to be cyber-allies, Michelle Pincince, project director of A World of Difference Institute in Connecticut, said it also shows students the many ways they can be allies.

"It's not always about directly confronting the perpetrator," Pincince said. "You can be an ally by supporting the target, empowering bystanders to intervene and by not contributing to the problem." This means students shouldn't forward mean emails, texts or photos they receive from others.

Olivia Carl, who's also in the seventh-grade, said she not only learned how to be a cyber-ally, she learned why it's important to stand up for people, as opposed to being a bystander and doing nothing. One lesson Olivia said she'll never forget is that cyber-bullying is like toothpaste. "Once you squirt it out of the tube, you can't put it back in." The same, she said, is true of emails and instant messages -- they can’t be taken back once they're sent.

Westport is the first town in the state to hold a CyberALLY workshop, which was funded by a grant from AT&T.  A CyberALLY workshop for high school students will be held May 24 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Westport Town Hall.

Do you think the CyberALLY program will be an effective tool to curb cyber-bullying? Please tell us below!

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