Richard Guerry, a former IT executive, recounts his time in the private sector as one in which he encountered the darkest areas of the internet and discovered countless individuals unknowingly being manipulated and their content being stolen and exploited. This experience and understanding of the dark undercurrents of the web led Guerry to leave corporate America and dedicate his life to teaching young people digital safety.
Guerry spoke to Benjamin middle school students via Zoom on October 15 about responsible online communication and digital citizenship. Guerry, executive director of the non-profit organization the Institute for Responsible Online and Cell-Phone Communication, warned students that we are very much in a global market, with massive competition.
“Employers can be very selective about who they choose to hire,” Guerry said. He reminded students that one choice made in a “second of your existence on this planet” could destroy everything they worked their young adult lives for including college and sports scholarships and acceptance.
Guerry urged students to avoid becoming “the statistic of pitfalls” when it comes to online communication.
“When the world put a rapidly evolving tool in your hands, it didn’t give you a road map or instructions to go with it. You’re going to write the roadmap through your actions . . . I think it’s really unfair which is why I do this job,” Guerry said.
Guerry reminded students that there is no such thing as social privacy in a digital world. Every advance in technology, he cautioned, is made for us to communicate faster.
“When speed and convenience goes up, your privacy and mine goes down,” he said.
Guerry said he didn’t want students to leave his presentation fearful of social media, gaming, and the internet, but rather conscious and mindful of the ways they can positively craft an online presence.
“Use it to write a history that you will one day be proud to show the next generation of your family,” he said.