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Hillsboro school to host forum on social media use for youth

HILLSBORO, N.D.--A community forum to address youths and the use of social media will be held in Hillsboro Wednesday night. The forum, scheduled for 7 p.m. at Hillsboro High School, comes in the aftermath of a recent investigation into alleged ha...

HILLSBORO, N.D.--A community forum to address youths and the use of social media will be held in Hillsboro Wednesday night.

The forum, scheduled for 7 p.m. at Hillsboro High School, comes in the aftermath of a recent investigation into alleged harassment involving Hillsboro students. However, officials said the forum is not a direct response to the case.

"It's an awareness thing for all parents," Superintendent Paula Pederson said. "Some parents don't know what their kids are doing on their phones. We just want to help parents be more aware."

Parents in the Hillsboro and Central Valley school districts are invited, she said.

Topics will include phone and Internet use by teenagers and the spread of rumors on social media, she said.

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The forum will be led by Fargo Police Department Lt. Joel Vettel, a native of nearby Cummings, N.D., and a 1989 Hillsboro High School graduate. He will be accompanied by Fargo detectives Nick Kjonaas and Chris Mathson, both who are members of the Fargo Police Department's Crimes Against Children Unit.

Vettel said he is aware of the recent Hillsboro investigation, but the panel will not discuss the case. Instead, they will draw on their experiences in investigating social media and bullying issues.

"We will provide a nice base for a conversation with folks about the issues," Vettel said.

The Fargo investigators have conducted similar presentations to a variety of audiences, including at conferences or other meetings of school resource officers, health groups and other organizations. They will discuss trends in technology and social media, including Snapchat and chat rooms.

"What we want to stress is to have a plan to protect themselves from these kinds of things," Vettel said.

They also will discuss how parents can engage their children in conversations about difficult subjects.

"We have that same conversation with our own kids," Vettel said. "We struggle to talk with our children about things like sex. We need to get to the point where we're comfortable doing that. In this day and age, there's a lot of room for failure, with all the forms of communication out there."

The forum has been in the works for about three weeks, Pederson said, adding social media has been a topic of interest in the community.

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The forum is sponsored by Hillsboro and Central Valley school districts, the city of Hillsboro, Hillsboro Students against Destructive Decisions, Hillsboro Booster Club, Halstad Telephone Co., St. John Lutheran Church, St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church and Our Savior's Lutheran Church.

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