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Students Across the Country Will Receive Lessons On Growing Social Media-Related Dangers Like Cyberbullying, Sexting and Human Trafficking

Los Angeles — With social media use surging among tweens and teens as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Organization for Social Media Safety and D.A.R.E. International have announced a groundbreaking collaboration to teach essential social media safety skills to students across the country. In just the first year of this initiative, vital lessons on social media-related dangers, like cyberbullying, screen addiction, sexting, and human trafficking, will potentially reach thousands of classrooms across the country.

“Accidental overdose is now the leading cause of unintentional death in the United States, and a lot of the drugs causing these deaths are being sold to our teens through social media,” said Dr. Laura Berman, a member of the Board of Directors of the Organization for Social Media Safety and this year’s keynote speaker at the 33rd D.A.R.E. International Training Conference held virtually on July 7th and 8th.  “In an experiment run by the Organization for Social Media Safety, testers were able to connect with drug dealers on social media and be offered drugs for sale in less than five minutes. Educating more families about this and other social media-related dangers will save countless lives, and that is why this partnership between D.A.R.E. and the Organization for Social Media Safety is so important.”   This year, Dr. Berman lost her 16-year-old son, Sammy, to Fentanyl poisoning after he connected with a drug dealer on social media.

Under the new partnership, D.A.R.E.’s national network of highly trained law enforcement officers will be trained on these new lessons and begin teaching elementary, middle, and high school students how to avoid or most safely respond to various social media-related dangers. The Organization for Social Media Safety’s curriculum is based on its extensive research and practical work with thousands of educators, students, and parents and created in consultation with the Organization for Social Media Safety’s Advisory Council, a group of preeminent experts in related fields of education, technology, and psychology.

The new collaboration between D.A.R.E. International and the Organization for Social Media Safety comes during a time when quarantines and school closures from the Covid-19 pandemic have caused social media usage to rise dramatically among children.  One study by Lurie Children’s Hospital found that 63% of parents reported that their child is using social media more now than before than pandemic.  Along with this increased time on social media, anecdotal reports and initial studies are suggesting a related increase in cyberbullying, depression and self-harm, sexting, hate speech, trafficking, and social media addiction.  L1ght, a company that monitors online hate and harassment, identified a whopping 70% increase in hate speech and cyberbullying during the pandemic.

“Protecting children from growing social media-related dangers like cyberbullying, trafficking, and fraud requires educating them so that they can be aware of these threats and better understand how to avoid or most safely react to them,” said Marc Berkman, CEO of the Organization for Social Media Safety. “We are grateful for this partnership with D.A.R.E. that will give our cutting-edge social media safety curriculum a larger national platform, potentially saving thousands of young lives.”

“As communities have begun to re-open and re-connect with schools, D.A.R.E. International has responded to pandemic related circumstances resulting in our learning that a large percentage of students are suffering from and continuing to cope with significant mental health issues,” stated Francisco Pegueros, President & CEO of D.A.R.E. International.  “In fact, our recent survey of over 200 D.A.R.E. officers reported that student mental health is the number one issue their students are facing.  That valuable feedback that they provided, combined with our own research, indicates that social media is the major contributor to not just multiple forms of cyber bullying, but also the availability of illegal and deadly drugs, as well as a variety of troubling mental health issues.  This, of course, should be no surprise since 95% of teens are connected to the internet and 85% actively use social media.”

D.A.R.E. will begin providing the new social media safety lessons to schools beginning in the fall of 2021.

About D.A.R.E.:

Launched in 1983, D.A.R.E. is a comprehensive K-12 education program taught in thousands of schools throughout America, as well as in 26 other countries. D.A.R.E.’s official mission today is teaching students good decision-making skills to help them to lead safe and healthy lives. 

D.A.R.E. education programs are a collaborative effort of the essential components of a community – students, parents, schools, law enforcement, and community leaders.  D.A.R.E. places specially trained law enforcement officers in classrooms who deliver science and evidence-based curricula that teach students good decision-making skills that will help them lead safe and healthy lives.  While D.A.R.E. curricula address drugs, it also focuses on violence, bullying, internet safety, and other high-risk circumstances that could be a part of the daily life of students.

For information on D.A.R.E. education programs, visit www.dare.org/education.

About the Organization for Social Media Safety: 

The Organization for Social Media Safety (OFSMS) is the nation’s first non-profit that serves as a consumer protection organization focused exclusively on social media. As the foremost expert in social media safety, OFSMS protects families from all social media-related dangers including cyberbullying, violence, hate speech, human trafficking, and propaganda through innovative educational programming, legislative and regulatory advocacy, and technology development. To learn more, please visit www.ofsms.org.

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PRESS CONTACT:

Tatiana Winograd
Organization for Social Media Safety
tatiana@mileskennedy.com
(818)645-0312

Richard Mahan
D.A.R.E. International
richard.mahan@dare.org
(310)490-2860

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