Forum warns of Internet dangers for children
DUNDEE—The Rochester branch of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children held a forum on cyberbullying and the potential dangers of strangers on the Internet, Wednesday, April 6, at the Dundee Central School.
There were 15 people in the audience. Stephanie Trombley, Dundee school caseworker, explained this was the first in a series of community forums. She explained all students at Dundee heard similar presentations earlier that day.
Pam Weaver, director of education for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Rochester, explained technology is such a part of children’s lives it is impossible to ignore. However, she said parents need to be aware of the potential dangers children can face on the Internet and to talk to them about being safe.
Weaver said parents should have age appropriate rules about using the Internet and cell phones, accessing Web sites, and talking to people online. She told the parents in the audience to keep up with who their children are talking to and what they are doing online.
She explained some of the risks children face are:
• Being friends with unknown people.
• Posting personal information.
• Embarrassing or harassing others.
• Talking about sex.
• Sending or posting provocative images.
• Sharing passwords with friends.
• Clicking on pop-up ads that could lead to pornography.
One specific threat Weaver focused on was cyberbullying, or harassing someone online. She explained it is more intrusive than regular bullying. Weaver said cyberbullies spread rumors, post pictures of someone without consent, steal passwords to access someone’s social networking profile, and threaten/harass someone with offensive language.
Signs a child is being cyberbullied include:
• Not using computer or cell phone.
• Acting nervous when they receive an e-mail, Instant Message, or text.
• Withdrawing from friends and family.
Weaver said the child should report the cyberbullying to an adult. She explained it may be important to have a record of the occurrence. She also said children should not respond to the bully, block/ban the person and set up a new account.
On the flip side, Weaver said children should be aware of how they treat people online. She explained things posted on the Internet can not be gotten rid of easily. She said children can cross the line when they write blogs about hating teachers or other people, and by sending inappropriate photos.
Weaver also talked about “sexting,” or sending a sexual photo of oneself to another person either by phone or any online median. If that person is underage, then the photo is child pornography. Weaver added that photo might be sent on to other people.
Weaver explained if someone passes on the photo, they are guilty of sharing child pornography, even if they too are underage. Weaver said if a child gets sent a sexual image unsolicited, they need to report it to law enforcement.
When it came to child abduction and exploitation, Weaver said “‘Stranger Danger’ is not what we teach anymore. It’s proven outdated.” She explained predators are more likely known to children. When it comes to online predators, Weaver explained they “groom” victims, become friendly.
She said signs of a “grooming” in a child include:
• Receiving gifts in the mail.
• Making calls to an unknown number.
• Turning away from friends and family.
• Spending a lot of time online.
• Getting upset when the predator is not online.
• Minimizing a computer window or turning the monitor when a parent walks in.
Weaver offered http://www.netsmartz.org as an online resource for both parents and students to learn about Internet safety.
At the end of the talk, Trombley said the next community forum would be Wednesday, May 4, at 6:30 p.m. in the Dundee auditorium. She said a representative from the New York State Police would talk about drugs in the community.