It’s a classic example of a win-lose situation.
The good news about technology is evident: global connectivity, instant information access, new ways to learn and greater convenience.
The bad news is that technology also carries significant risks, including shaming and bullying, which sometimes leads to suicide on the part of the victims; misinformation; hacked accounts; stolen identities; financial accounts drained; cyber-revenge, such as against an ex-spouse or partner; and other predatory behavior.
Peace Mountain Theatre Company is presenting an educational program about digital danger, with special emphasis on young people and how their families can help keep them safe.
Entitled “How much Digital Danger are children in: Today’s Cybersecurity risks and what to do about them,” the program includes excerpts from “Cyber-Mare,” a play by Cindy Keegan.
This will be followed by the input of a panel of experts, who will explore the key issues raised by the play and engage in a Q&A afterward.
Audience members are encouraged to bring their “stories, their kids, their grandchildren and their questions,” said Laurie Freed, Peace Mountain’s artistic director.
Pauline Griller-Mitchell, who is directing “Cyber-Mare,” may have found the play even more eye-opening than others might. She’s been neither a parent nor a parent and wasn’t “aware of digital dangers such as gossip, rumors, stalking and bullying. This awakened me.”
The dangers are magnified, she said, by the fact that young people spend as much time as they do on cyber-technology and sometimes don’t talk to each other. The play is short — maybe 20-25 minutes long — but it’s important.
The potential for digital danger is great, noted Kristin M. White, executive producer of the program and a board member of Peace Mountain. Common Sense Media has reported that by the time they’re teenagers, 95 percent of children in the United States will have their own mobile device and, on average, spend almost nine hours a day texting, playing games, posting to social media, watching videos and more.
With all this time online, tweens and teens are navigating a minefield of challenging issues, from sexting and cyberbullying to fake news, said White.
“There’s even a special term for taking one’s own life because of digital bullying, which is ‘cybercide,’” said Freed.
Founded in 2014, Peace Mountain, which calls itself “theatre with a purpose,” and presents full productions as well as educational programs such as this one.
A cast of ten actors, mostly middle- and high-school-aged students as well as a few young adults, will take the audience through five real-life digital scenarios that may have a profound impact on many young people today, said White. “We hope the vignettes will serve as a wake-up call, prompting all of us to think twice before that next Tweet, text or share.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that “parents and caregivers develop a family media plan that takes into account the health, education and entertainment needs of each child as well as the whole family,” White continued.
Pauline Griller-Mitchell is directing “Cyber-Mare.”
The members of the panel are individuals who will address the issues in the play represent a wide range of expertise. They are Aimee Block, clinical social worker/therapist; Dan Brandt Lautman, certified ethical hacker and certified information systems security professional; Lisa Cline, co-chair of Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Association’s Safe Technology Subcommittee; Dane Onorio, a detective with Montgomery County Department of Police’s Special Victims Investigation Division/Child Exploitation Unit; and Lisa Sorensen, Montgomery County Public Schools guidance counselor.
Hopefully, the panel members will help empower young people and their families to use the cyber world safely, said Freed. Young people may not understand that if they send out a horrible thing about someone to a dozen friends, ultimately it goes out to thousands of people, which is like thousands of punches in the stomach.”
“Digital Danger” takes place on Sunday, April 14, at 2 p.m. at Cong. Har Shalom, the theatre company’s charter sponsoring partner, at 11510 Falls Road, Potomac.
For tickets, visit www.peacemountaintheatre.com.