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Internet safety night hopes to educate parents, students in online safety for kids

Lynelle Urlacher, school counselor at Berg Elementary in Dickinson, said teaching Internet safety has become a regular part of her role. While kids have been online for years, Urlacher said she has seen a "spike" this year in student usage. "All ...

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Lynelle Urlacher, school counselor at Berg Elementary in Dickinson, said teaching Internet safety has become a regular part of her role.

While kids have been online for years, Urlacher said she has seen a “spike” this year in student usage.

“All of a sudden, it’s like 90 percent of the kids in the sixth-grade classroom are using Facebook, using Instagram, Snapchat,” Urlacher said, listing popular social media programs. “They’re so naive, so unaware of what’s safe, what’s unsafe, who they can add as a friend. They’re bragging about having 1,000 friends on Facebook -- how many of those have you met in real life? They know maybe 50, and those others could be anyone.”

Smartphones and the ever-present Internet can make some aspects of raising children easier, while simultaneously introducing a new set of challenges.

Those more problematic aspects of parenting plugged-in kids will be addressed at an Internet safety parent night from 5:30-7 p.m. Monday at the Hagen Junior High School cafeteria.

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The event is hosted by the school counselors at Hagen and Berg, as well as School Resource Officer Josh Monson, and is targeted to parents and guardians of sixth- through eighth-graders and the students themselves.

Kristen Porter, a mother of a Berg sixth-grader, said she hopes the event “shows the kids the dangers that are out there.”

While she admits with a laugh that she’s “getting there” with her own Internet savviness, Porter said with all the new developments and apps, it can be difficult to stay on top of the forms of Internet communication her own child could be using.

“I’ve just decided that for the 10- to 11-year-old age, even as a parent that is trying to monitor and lock things, it’s almost impossible to keep up with,” Porter said. “There are so many nooks and crannies, I just think it’s too much at this age.”

Amanda Kuhn, the seventh-grade counselor at Hagen, also spoke to the “friending” process that can potentially connect students to dangerous adults and hoped the evening would raise awareness for both students and their parents.

“It’s all so accessible right now,” Kuhn said. “There’s so much out there that I think parents aren’t aware of, and I think kids don’t always understand the implications, or they don’t think through that process.”

Hagen eighth-grade counselor Trista Dakken said the extent went beyond social media into the realm of video games, which can connect like never before.

Though as in the case of social media, those game connections could introduce kids to less-than-trustworthy strangers.

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Monson said there had been cases in the past few years of students “reaching out and getting into troublesome issues” when the person they communicate with online isn’t necessarily who they present themselves to be.

Students weren’t always aware of the ramifications of divulging their personal information online, and could find themselves in dangerous situations, Monson said.

When it comes to the parents, he said the biggest take-away from the evening should be that the safety of their kids should come first in their online excursions.

“It’s learning that, while they want their kids to have the responsibility to feel more grown up and have a cellphone, they don’t have privacy,” Monson said. “It’s OK for parents to watch what their kids are doing on social media, on video games and to keep them safe. The last thing anybody wants is their kid reaching out to somebody and disappearing.”

Parents of younger students are also welcome to attend the event, and childcare will be available for those who need it.

A supper of chili and bread sticks will be served at the beginning of the evening, and parents are asked to RSVP at 701-456-0007 or with skilwein@dpsnd.org .

Related Topics: DICKINSONEDUCATION
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