SEVEN HILLS, Ohio — Considering that middle-schoolers live on social media, student internet safety remains a constant threat.
“As the administration, we have a whole bunch of things that show up on our desk every single day,” Hillside Middle School Dean of Students Christopher Clute said.
“We kept running into the social media issues, technology issues and pictures being sent on social media. It ends up coming to school, where we spend three hours of our day investigating.”
After brainstorming how to address the social media issue, the school decided to bring in Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Outreach Coordinator Kathleen Caffrey, who last month talked to fifth-, sixth- and seventh-grade students about sharing personal information, posting inappropriate images and dealing with cyber-bullying.
Each class came to the cafeteria to watch a presentation, as well as talk to Caffrey about internet dangers.
“Things that you put online, even if you delete it, never really go away,” Caffrey told the students. “Even if you put something on Snapchat — and it’s gone in 24 hours — it never truly disappears. I want you to think about the things you’re putting online, and think about what is appropriate and not appropriate to share with strangers.
“It’s easy to find you and it’s easy to learn more about you if you share too much information.”
Regarding privacy settings, Caffrey told students to only accept friend requests or followers from people they know.
Clute noted that, just like when parents say something to their kids and it falls on deaf ears, the Hillside Middle School administration experienced the same reaction from students.
“A lot of this stuff wasn’t necessarily new material as much as it was just hearing it from different people,” Clute said. “In talking to the kids afterwards, there were some surprises. They said, ‘Oh, I didn’t know if I was on Snapchat and I had this setting that people could see exactly where I was.’”
The other topic that caught the students’ attention involved Caffrey telling a story of a 60-year-old man, posing as a 14-year-old girl, requesting inappropriate pictures and having inappropriate conversations with students in Ohio.
“That was kind of an eye-opener for the students, that this happened to kids who are local,” Clute said. “We never wanted to come across as ‘don’t do social media’ or ‘social media is evil.’ We just wanted them to have those tools to keep them safe.
“That was the main takeaway, and I think it was successful. So, even if we just reached one student, it was worth it for us.”
Clute said the school is looking forward to future visits from Caffrey.
“I found it beneficial and would definitely look into having that conversation again,” Clute said. “Cyber-bullying is a hot topic, so I would consider that next year.
“We already broached the topic of maybe it could be in the beginning of the year and might be beneficial for parents, because they’re not always aware of what those students are doing on social media.”
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