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Anti-bullying group presents even on cyber safety

AUSTIN — Now that nearly every cellphone is a smartphone and more and more children are carrying them, it's getting more and more important for parents to be vigilant, said Danielle Borgerson-Nesvold, founder of Community Against Bullying in Austin.

Today's phones are portable cameras and pathways to the Internet and social media websites such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram. Smartphones, tablets and other wireless devices present parents with more challenges than opportunities, she said.

To help children and teens learn responsible ways of using the newest technology, and to help parents acquire skills to monitor that use, Community Against Bullying is sponsoring a Cyber Safety presentation.

"The Internet is a huge shield for attackers," Borgerson-Nesvold said of those who might prey on kids online. But the Internet also can be a place of contention among young peers.

"The things that they say. … They don't understand or comprehend the damage," she said.

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The free event will be held in Knowlton Auditorium in Austin High School on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Guest speaker will be Dave Eisenmann from the Minnetonka school system. Borgerson-Nesvold said he will have practical information for both parents and their children.

"It does cover quite a huge umbrella," she said. "He's going to show what happens. Kids are visual learners. You can tell them and talk to them, but they might only get 15 percent."

Eisenmann will employ modified cellphones to illustrate just how one photograph can spread among a large number of people.

Borgeson-Nesvold pointed to two situations in the last couple of years that have hurt students.

The first was a photograph taken by a girl and sent to a boy, who forwarded it to others, the second was a Twitter page espousing the "secrets" of Austin High School."

"People have to be smart, and kids have to have a head on their shoulders," said Borgerson-Nesvold, adding that Tuesday's event also will give tips on how to celebrate positive uses of technology. "We're not telling them to do anything, but we're guiding them."

Whether it's Cyber Safety or bullying, or both, events like the one scheduled for Tuesday are meant to get people more involved.

"We as parents really need to be the teachers and better examples," Borgerson-Nesvold said. "We need to step it up."

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