September 12, 2013 — A new program at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia is taking a novel approach to combat bullying and Internet crime by having students teaching students about the dangers. The Coalition for Youth Safety was established by Wheeling Jesuit criminal justice professor Dr. Larry Driscoll to teach criminal justice majors about child safety issues, particularly Internet safety, bullying and social media.
This summer, six Wheeling Jesuit students took Dr. Driscoll’s course on child safety, with guest lectures from local experts on topics such as how to avoid becoming a victim, Internet safety, bullying, cyber-bullying and social media issues. This fall, the six students will pass on their knowledge and create educational materials for a traveling presentation at local middle schools. The Wheeling Jesuit students will work in teams to become “mini experts” in one of the safety topics. The course will be offered again at Wheeling Jesuit in upcoming academic years, with current students acting as mentors for new students enrolled in the course.
"I definitely think that they would listen to us more than somebody who's older because we grew up with this, and I think we can relate to them more," said Vicki Zanes, a student at Wheeling Jesuit.
Dr. Driscoll believes that issues related to social media, bullying and Internet crimes will only worsen with time. However, he said, this course provides WJU students with the understanding and background to teach middle school students safety awareness and strategies in these areas. He added that the Coalition for Youth Safety fits into the university's mission of teaching its students and then having the students give back to the community.
“We have found through research and other programs that middle school students relate better to younger adults — someone that speaks the same language. The middle school students need this important information, because they are more vulnerable. Most importantly, the Wheeling Jesuit students will serve as positive role models and mentors for the young people that they will be teaching,” said Dr. Driscoll. [Wheeling Jesuit University, Wheeling Intelligencer, WTRF TV, WTOV TV]