Comcast Hosts Youth Tech Summit: Social Media & Cyber-Bullying Discussed

SACRAMENTO – If you are a parent and you see your child’s Facebook page and there are no updates or comments for an extended period of time, they may be pulling a fast one. This and other interesting bits of information were shared at last week’s Youth Tech Summit and Expo, hosted by Comcast at the Sacramento Convention Center.

Hundreds of kids from throughout California attended the Summit, taking in discussions and activities related to technology and their place in it. Some of the youth were accompanied by their parents, while others participated as part of a youth group.

Zakiya Jackson admitted to creating a fake Facebook profile to fool her parents. Ms. Jackson, a 19-year-old college student from Oakland, was a panelist on a cyberbullying panel discussion.

The reformed cyberbully says today she appreciates having her mother, and grandmother, being “friends” on her real page, adding that it keeps her on the straight and narrow.

“If I put it out there, I know it’s going to get to my mother and I need to watch my mouth,” Ms. Jackson said.

The idea that technology represents power, good and bad, was repeated throughout the day’s activities, while most participants focused on how to harness its endless potential.

Carlos Ramos, Director of California’s Department of Technology, said California leads the nation in the industry with 41,900 tech companies employing 968,800 people whose average salary is $123,900.

Tech jobs, Ramos said, have gone up 13 percent, but graduates with degrees in that field have gone down 10 percent.

Many, like Congresswoman Doris Matsui, shared the belief that access to the Internet, for jobs and education, is a critical start in the right direction. The world, “is open to us with the Internet,”said the Congresswoman during a panel discussion at the Summit.

“With the Internet, we are going to be creating new leaders, young people in the sciences and young people who are probably going to be able to develop a cure for cancer, be able to figure out how to solve climate change, and be able to pass along to the rest of the world what it means to live in a democracy,” Ms. Matsui said.

“The world is getting smaller and smaller. Yet we have so many bright young people here who’ve not been able to participate. We want young people to participate because we believe that we have the ability here in this country to find solutions,” she continued.

Congresswoman Matsui and other area officials joined Comcast leaders in outlining efforts to get affordable Internet access into low-income households in Sacramento and across the state.

Comcast’s Executive Vice President David L. Cohen, shared information on Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, which brings affordable Internet access to low-income households. The goal, Cohen said, is to close the “digital divide.”

Hank Fore, Regional Senior Vice President for Comcast California, agreed.

“It’s one simple problem we’re trying to solve, get broadband to those who need it — the poor, people of color and those urban areas where it’s not accessible today,” Fore said.

Internet Essentials offers monthly Internet service for $9.95 and the chance to buy an affordable computer on which to utilize it. The program is open to those households with children who qualify for the National School Lunch Program.

Nationally, 2.6 million families are eligible for Internet Essentials. Cohen states that nearly 25,750 families in California have signed up, including 5,150 in the greater Sacramento region. While leaders are optimistic about progress, they admit only 8 percent of eligible families have taken advantage of the program. Pointing to a map, Cohen further showed how Sacramento’s Oak Park neighborhood, which typically has more residents of color, has 20 percent of eligible households enrolled, as opposed to Natomas (where Whites with better financial outlooks are the majority), which has 80 percent of eligible households enrolled.

“There’s a correlation between race, income levels, education and broadband adoption rate,” Cohen shared.

Other topics of discussion at the Summit included Internet safety, how technology is used in schools, and steering more students, particularly those of color, into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses and careers.
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By Genoa Barrow
OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer