Zonta Club continues Life Forward series, examines cyber technology

Detective Ray Bercini discusses human trafficking at the Life Forward workshop at Savia Community Center. Ryan Mancini/The Signal

The latest installment of the Life Forward workshop series, hosted by the Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley, kicked off Saturday with a discussion on how cyber technology impacts young people.

Held at the Savia Community Center, parents and children sat and listened to Chris Jones and Ray Bercini speak about cyberbullying and cyber targeting. While the organization’s goal is designed to empower and support women in Santa Clarita and worldwide, the Zonta Club began organizing with other nonprofits and the city to target helping single mothers and domestic violence survivors, leading to Life Forward, said Phyllis Walker, Life Forward Workshop co-chair for the Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley.

Fliers were sent to all the high schools in the William S. Hart Union High School District, notifying parents and students to RSVP, said Walker.

“The parents asked a lot of really good questions,” said Jones, a licensed educational psychologist. “Most of it had to do with how to recognize when cyberbullying’s happening and to understand how to navigate in an Internet-based world.”

Jones advised parents to set up email and chat accounts with their children, this way there is consistency with usernames and passwords and any personal information is not included. Parents were also informed to keep an open communication and set up an environment of trust between them and their children. Giving parents a better sense of what to look out for helps when children are likely to be more tech-savvy with devices and apps, he said.

As he presented, Jones also advised children to not give out any personal information or passwords, not even to friends, only parents. If a child receives a threatening message from someone, save it and print out a copy to give to an adult. Do not respond back. Parents should stay up-to-date on the latest acronyms and look over any instant message “buddy lists” with their children, according to Jones.

Bercini then followed with his own presentation. A detective with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Bercini detailed many of the dangers children can access online, including predators, human traffickers and pornography. He also warned parents about online chat rooms, where someone under a different identity can lure children and teenagers into various criminal activities, such as sex exploitation or child prostitution. Bercini also identified various chat rooms platforms from Snapchat to Chatroulette to Omegle.

“We’ve got to be vigilant and look at this stuff,” he said.

As long as people have access to a portal, young people are still at risk, he said, adding that dangers can come through the use of a computer or tablet, a game console, Blu Ray player or a smartphone.

“It is awareness, checking in on your kids, communicating with kids,” Bercini said. “I’ll reiterate: Don’t give your information to anybody.”

The Life Forward series are designed to help women “believe in your unlimited power and potential, build the skills necessary to succeed, be the powerful woman you are meant to be,” according to description on the event’s flier.

“This was from a survey of things that were presented in the past and these were priority,” Walker said. “As the audience that comes, instead of us trying to determine what they need, they tell us what best meets their needs, so that’s how the topics are decided.”

The Zonta Club will continue holding workshops until the end of the year. The next session will be “Use Your Own Superpower to Increase Self Worth!” featuring Laura Cazares, life mastery consultant and DreamBuilder coach, on Oct. 20.

Sessions are free but seating is limited. To register for the next workshop, go to scvzonta.org/lifeforward/ before Oct. 17.

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