Jake Brown, 15, relies on social media, particularly Facebook. “It’s a great way to keep in touch with people,” he said.
But the Jenison, Mich., high school student says he became much more aware of the dangers of social media, such as cyberbullying, through a recent seminar hosted by 12th Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Jenison. The church teamed with a nearby Youth for Christ group, of which Jake is a member, to offer the program. About 50 teens attended.
“It’s a huge part of students’ lives, and we thought this was something we should focus on,” said Andrew Kimball, 12th Avenue’s youth director.
The seminar included a video depicting the story of Amanda Todd, a teenager from British Columbia, Canada, who took her own life last fall after she had been bullied online. “We talked about her struggle, what she was going through, that there seemed to be no escape for her,” Kimball said.
Local Youth for Christ director Mike Walton said he hears stories from some of the students he works with about cyberbullying. He encourages kids who are struggling to find an adult, such as a parent, teacher, or youth director, to talk to. “We don’t want any kid to reach that point where they feel that isolated, that alone,” said Walton, a graduate of Calvin Theological Seminary.
Mark Bennink, the pastor at 12th Avenue, said that while the social media seminars were primarily targeted to teens, some family members of teenagers also turned out. “We even got some concerned grandparents,” he said.