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DPD to hold internet safety night next week

Technology is constantly changing. It seems that every day there is a new phone app or a new website for kids to visit and sometimes it can be difficult for parents to keep up with it all to keep their children safe. That's why the Dickinson Poli...

Lovely Hispanic schoolgirl doing homework on laptop
Lovely Hispanic schoolgirl doing homework on laptop

Technology is constantly changing. It seems that every day there is a new phone app or a new website for kids to visit and sometimes it can be difficult for parents to keep up with it all to keep their children safe. That's why the Dickinson Police Department is hosting an Internet safety night next week.

The presentation will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 6 at Hagen Junior High with sessions for both parents and students to learn more about how to stay safe while surfing the web. The program is free and open to the public and food will be served during the event.

Lynelle Urlacher, Berg Elementary school counselor, said it is very important for parents to know what kids are doing online in order to keep them safe.

"You would never let anybody into your own home that you wouldn't know, so why would you let someone into your online life if you don't know them in real life," she said. "... You want to keep yourself as safe as possible."

Detective Travis Leintz, a DPD officer who specializes in internet issues and internet safety, will be talking to parents about internet usage with kids and things that parents should be paying attention to on their child's devices. He will also talk about how parents should go about reporting any kind of suspicious activity that they may find.

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"Social media changes," Leintz said. "Hopefully we're going to get them somewhat knowledgeable so that way if they have a kid's device they know what they're seeing. ... So, we're going to try and break those barriers and it'll be kind of a 'Social Media 101' crash course for whoever wants to come."

Leintz said he is constantly speaking with students about what types of apps they're using and then downloads the programs so he can better understand how they work and ways they could pose a risk to kids.

"It's challenging," he said. "Technology evolves so quickly and hopefully we can just stay right with it and not fall behind. Once you fall behind then it's harder to catch up and do our jobs."

Berg Elementary principal Shawn Leiss said that making parents aware of what their kids are up to is important because if something happens on social media it can sometimes have an effect on a child at school as well.

"Whatever drama that may be unfolding on social media, it impacts the classroom," Leiss said. "It has a negative impact on learning and we end up having to investigate things and stop things because of something that starts on social media then is brought into the school."

He added that parents might not always know who is talking to their child if they are constantly on their phone at night.

"If a parent lets their kid have a cell phone in their bedroom with the door closed you really have no idea who's contacting them or who they're accessing," he said. "... We just want people to think about it."

Corporal Brandon Stockie, a resource officer at Hagen Junior High School, will also be giving a separate talk to students to discuss how they can protect themselves while online.

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"We're making them aware of what it's like when your online life is entering into kind of that dangerous area of having interactions with people that you're not friends with in real life," Urlacher said.

Leintz recommends that parents know all of their child's logins and passwords to any social media accounts, keep track of what types of devices they use and that digital devices, such as smartphones and tablets not be used in bedrooms. He also suggests that parents should have a designated turn-in time for all devices so they can keep track of what their kids are up to and charge the devices as well.

While social media can have a positive impact, Leiss said it can also be a "real scary thing" and wants parents to have as much information as they can.

"Having a cell phone that's connected to the internet, that's very powerful," he said. "It can be very positive, but there can be some real negative impacts and if you do things like go through these educational things you have a better chance of staying safe."

To RSVP please contact the West Dakota Parent and Family Resource Center at 701-456-0007.

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