By Gary Lloyd
Members of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office’s Special Investigations Unit last week addressed parents of Paine Intermediate School parents about measures they can take to protect their children online.
Lt. Mike Yarbrough and Sgt. Carl Carpenter said Internet safety is a prevalent problem among today’s youth. They shared that they had six such cases on their desks right now that involved Internet crime stemming from postings on applications such as Instagram, text messages and chatting via gaming systems such as X-Box live and PlayStation 3.
Paine Intermediate School Assistant Principal Kristi Stacks said administrators have seen Paine Intermediate students posting pictures of themselves on Instagram accounts that are wide open for anyone to view.
“We are also finding pictures taken of whole classrooms of students and posted on Instagram without permission from the subjects of those pictures,” Stacks said in an email. “Sometimes the students in the pictures/videos are working in their classrooms and do not realize that a picture or video of them is being taken. Then, that picture is posted on Instagram with a mean or snide comment.”
Stacks said Paine Intermediate Technology Integration Specialist Kelly Rush and fourth- and fifth-grade guidance counselor Lauren Blake educated parents about Instagram. They also demonstrated filters and restrictions that can be placed on electronic devices.
Trussville Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Diane Poole attended last week’s meeting. She said Yarbrough and Carpenter shared quite a few stories about what can and has happened to kids who shared too much information online.
“It was enough to scare me into being more proactive about the social media and electronic devices my 11-year-old son uses,” Poole said.
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Randy Christian provided nine tips for parents to consider for protecting their children from online predators:
1. Communicate with your children about what is acceptable online behavior. Encourage them to let you know if someone sends them explicit messages or photos.
2. Understand the technology that you allow your children to use. Online gaming services offer voice chat during games. The conversations can become lewd and abusive.
3. Adjust online gaming settings to prevent your children from adding friends or talking to people they do not know. The service may allow you to set up an adult password requirement to add friends and select who your child may talk to.
4. Check the friends lists of all accounts. If you see people you do not know, ask your child who they are and how they know them.
5. Know the user names and passwords to any online account accessed by your child. This includes email accounts, online gaming and social media. Periodically check these accounts for activity that raises warning flags. Children may not recognize danger as readily as an adult.
6. Monitor your child’s cell phone usage and communications. Periodically check their phone for threats to their safety. Remember, your responsibility to protect them outweighs privacy concerns they may have.
7. Do not allow your child to install third party chat, texting or video chat apps on their cell phones. These applications can allow for access to your child that is difficult to discover or track.
8. If you are compelled to allow your child to have their gaming system, computer or cell phone in their bedroom leave the door open so you can glance in from time to time. Pay attention to what they are doing.
9. If ever you discover something that causes you concern, discuss it with your child
. Tell them why you are concerned. Call law enforcement when necessary.
Paine Intermediate will host the same Internet safety meeting April 25 at 6 p.m. in the school’s amphitheater. A similar Internet safety meeting for the school’s teachers will be Monday at 2 p.m. in the school’s library.
Contact Gary Lloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.