Marsteller MS PTO Invites Community to Internet Safety Info Night

| May 27, 2014 | 0 Comments | Education

Students texts under her desk at school.

The Prince William County Police Safety Resource Officers (SRO) in cooperation with the Marsteller Middle School Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) will be hosting an Internet and Social Media Safety Night Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Marsteller that is open to all citizens.

This event is not limited to Marsteller families. The Marsteller PTO has invited the larger community so that teens, tweens and parents of children of all ages can learn to protect their children from, or respond to, incidents of cyberbullying and “sexting.”

Melinda Kenney-Masters, a Marsteller mom and PTO member, helped organize the info night. Kenney-Masters said she felt it was an important issue for parents to learn about because often they do not know how to respond until they are faced with precarious internet-related situations.

For that reason, she planned this preemptive meeting to teach parents and students, “what does happen, what could happen, and what you should do.”

According to Kenney-Masters, many parents trust their children, and think they would never participate in cyberbullying or “sexting.” However, she said that any child could easily receive a text, Instagram, or other form of online communication that made him or her feel uncomfortable.

In that situation, she doubts that many students or parents would know how to properly respond.

Firstly, many children and teens might be reluctant to tell their parents about an inappropriate text or photo. They might seek to hide if from their parents, thinking they would be in trouble if their parents found out.

However, even in cases in which the child does bring the incident to his or her parents, the parents often times suggest the wrong response. For instance, if a teen received a naked photo of a classmate, a parent might suggest his or her son simply delete the photo from his phone.

However, Kenny-Masters said that deleting the photo is not enough, especially since the that photo is likely considered child pornography.

“What if you’re now in that tag line. What happens now?” she asked.

Kenney-Masters has discussed the best approach with Prince William Police. They have advised her that the best course of action is for a parent to call the police about such an incident. That way, the adults and the child can go on record that they did not request such a photo.

Prince William Police Officer David Smith with the SRO Unit and Criminal Investigation Unit confirmed that calling the police would be the best course of action for a person to take in such a situation.

He explained that these kinds of situations are not unique.

“Every SRO for every middle school and high school is now carrying at least one of these types of cases. It has become much more prevalent,” Smith said.

Officer Smith said the best recommendation he could give any parents is to always monitor their children’s social media usage.

“[I would advise to parents to] make sure their monitoring their children on the computer [tablets and phones] so they are always aware who they’re talking to on them. If they are sending or receiving photos on them,” he said.

Kenney-Masters stresses that this is not just an issue for children, but for the parents as well, since often times although it is the child using the phone, computer, email or social media account, it belongs to the parent.

“It’s your cell phone. It might be in possession of your child, but it’s your name [on the contract]. It ultimately falls on your shoulders if an incident happens,” she said.

Likewise, considering the gravity of the situation, she believes it should be taken out of the hands of the minor and be referred to an adult, who is better equipped to follow the proper legal procedures.

Kenney-Masters said she would recommend that parents and children both attend the meeting as long as parents feel their child is mature enough. Officer Smith said that since the information night is being held at a middle school, his officers are making the material appropriate for middle school and high school aged children.

Kenney-Masters said it is her hope that at the very least the info night will spark conversation between children and their parents about these situations and the correct way to address them. She believes children need to know to go right to a parent, a teacher, counselor, administrator, or SRO officer should they receive an electronic message that makes them uncomfortable.

She said the issue is also important one to discuss in terms of cyber bullying, because children are literally taken their lives over internet bullying.

This is not the first time that SRO officers have held information meetings, but Kenney-Masters said an Internet Safety Night in Prince William has yet to be well-attended, therefore most community members do not know how to respond when situations arise. She is asking parents to set aside time this evening for what she believes to be a very important parenting issue.

Parents and children ages 11-18 are invited to attend this community information meeting. Marsteller Middle School is located at 14000 Sudley Manor Drive in Bristow.


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