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Keep in tune with the kids

North Dakota First Lady Mikey Hoeven speaks about alcohol abuse prevention during the 2009 Project ACE Conference Thursday in Dickinson State University's Beck Auditorium at Klinefelter Hall. Press Photo by John Odermann1 / 2
Dickinson Police Officer Ron Van Doorne talks about the dangers of social networking sites Myspace and Facebook at the conference. Press Photo by John Odermann2 / 2

The 2009 Project ACE Conference held at Dickinson State University's Klinefelter Hall Thursday seemed to have an unofficial theme as the day went on.

Parents need to talk to their kids.

About 30 people attended the day-long event.

Many of the speakers, including North Dakota First Lady Mikey Hoeven stressed the important role communication between parents and their children plays in the prevention of drug, alcohol and other forms of abuse.

"I firmly believe that parents can have tremendous influence on their children," Hoeven said.

Hoeven said her Parenting for Prevention program provides education and a resource for parents to communicate with their children in an effort to encourage them to make good decisions.

"This is critically important because it has been proven that adolescents drink less and have fewer alcohol-related problems when their parents set clear rules and expectations about drinking," Hoeven said.

Project ACE is a collaborative effort including citizens, businesses and other organizations in southwestern North Dakota, which promotes education to help prevent at-risk behaviors.

During the conference several topics were discussed ranging from domestic violence, pharmaceutical drug abuse, methamphetamines and the programs available to help mitigate the risks.

Popular social networking sites, Myspace and Facebook, also came up.

Officer Ron Van Doorne with the Dickinson Police Department asked conference attendees to raise their hands if they monitored their children's online profiles. When only a few raised their hands, he said "Next time we ask that question I want to see every hand go up."

"If I can give you one bit of advice before we leave: Check it every day, I don't care how old they are. Look over their shoulder, ask them what they're doing," Van Doorne said.

Van Doorne said you don't always know who is looking at your child's profile, which could include law enforcement.

"I have seven accounts myself that I use. One of them I'm actually a 15-year-old girl," Van Doorne said. "So we use these accounts all the time."

Stacy Kilwein, with West Dakota Parent and Family Resource Center said "when our kids are going to visit their friends we ask the questions who, what, when, where.

"We really encourage you to do the same thing with your child's Myspace site."

Kilwein's daughter, BreeAnn, who helped out with the presentation said, "it's the relationship you have with your parents.

"It's more or less the relationship you have with your kids," she said in regards to online use. "If you don't have a relationship with your kids you can come up and ask them what they have on there and they can hide it."