Posted: Mar 26, 2013 8:24 PM by Angela Douglas - MTN News
BILLINGS - Anonymous Facebook confessions. It's a concept that lured students at all three Billings high schools to create pages for their school; an idea that may have started out innocent, but has turned into a new outlet for insults.
"Just shocked by why they would do this kind of stuff," said West High Senior Chardell Barbula of her fellow classmates.
CJ Lewis, a Sophomore at West High School in Billings admitted that some of the posts on the "West High Confessions" Facebook page were pretty vulgar.
"Some of the stuff I've seen on there, it's pretty dramatic," he said.
Fellow Sophomore Anna Sauvageu agreed.
"Just people calling each other faggots, just being mean to other people," Sauvageu said.
The biggest concern with the confessions page on Facebook is the cyberbullying aspect. Students can post a comment about anything or anyone anonymously, or so they think.
"Even though they think that they're posting anonymously, their activity can truly be tracked," explained FBI Special Agent Earl Campbell. "They can be identified for what they are posting and ... saying if they're illegal or break the law."
Bullying and cyberbullying are nothing new, but West High is using the recent events as an educational tool. Administrators are hoping to inspire students to be part of the solution, rather than the problem.
"We have zero tolerance," West High Principal Dave Cobb told the students Tuesday morning. "I truly believe that there's enough kids in this school that are tired and frustrated and hurt with the things that have happened to individuals in our school and even in our community."
West High is launching the "Not in Our School" campaign on Wednesday. Students are encouraged to report any illegal activity they witness to the BPD tipline by texting 274637 with the keyword: bpdtip.
Many students at West High are relieved by the response of their teachers and principal.
"I'm glad they're stepping in and making sure that all the cyberbullying stuff stops," Barbula said.
The lesson plan at West High School on Tuesday morning focused around appropriate internet use and informing the teenagers how vulnerable they truly are online.
From tracking text messages to gaining complete control over the phone's camera, social media sites have mastered the art of access.
Adjusting privacy settings is the first step to protecting your privacy, something many high schoolers have yet to do. To further his point, Campbell put together a slideshow for the students with pictures many of them recognized from their own Facebook pages.
"I need to fix my account on Facebook because I have a lot of information out there," Sauvageu admitted.
"What I'm trying to show them is that social networking truly is just that. It's social. It's designed to be open and not private," said Campbell. "The biggest thing is be safe, make good choices on the internet. Realize that anybody can see what they're doing and what they're posting."