GALION — Social media can be tricky and intimidating for adults, who didn’t grow up with computers and smartphones.
But for teens, social media is a part of life they’ve grown up with. Computers and the Internet and laptops and iPhones and Androids are used each day by students. But while society and educational demands necessitate the use of the Internet and social media by students, the dangers associated with their use are very much real.
That’s the thought of Galion City Schools administrators who are encouraging parents to be vigilant and aggressive in monitoring their kids’ use of social media. If parents and guardians aren’t doing it already, they should start immediately, and keep doing it on a regular basis.
“Don’t wait until something happens to be active,” said Galion Middle School Principal Joe Morabito, who has had to deal with too many social media related issues in recent months. “A few instances occurred going into the Christmas break that caused us to feel the need to raise awareness.”
Morabito emphasized that issues school officials had to deal with came via outside factors — mainly the use of personal cell phones. None were associated with school property such as laptops or iPads issued to students for school use only.
But that doesn’t mean school districts have no authority to take action when it comes to Internet and social media misuse.
If questionable content is being shared between students while on school property, and it becomes a disruption to the school day, district officials can — and have — taken action.
Those actions have included meetings with students and conferences with parents. It also has included bringing in School Resource Officer Ralph Burwell to speak to students and parents at the same time.
“It’s a lawful issue at a certain point, and we are trying to get our students to understand that,” Morabito said.
Sending or forwarding sexually-explicit photos can result in serious consequences. If it is discovered and confiscated, such acts could result in being labeled a sex offender in the court system.
“Sending messages and photos is the new normal in society,” said middle school assistant principal Brian Kinnard.“Kids aren’t understanding the consequences of sending inappropriate material. It’s not just sexual content, it’s cyber-bullying.”
In order to stay ahead of the problem, administrators are reaching out to parents.
“Social media presents a challenge for schools and parents, and we want to give (parents) more resources,” Morabito said.
“We have got to do better looking out for our kids,” Kinnard added. “There have to be consequences at home, because the schools can’t do it alone. We can’t run from it.”
Galion City Schools has added some resources to the school website concerning the issue. Parents can find the material on the “Parent tab,” and then go to “Resources” and then click on “Internet Safety”.
Other suggested reading by both Morabito and Kinnard is a book entitled “The Boogeyman Exists” by Internet safety author and speaker Jesse Weinberger.
Weinberger spoke about this topic at Galion High School a couple of years ago, and her book offers suggestions for parents and “rules” for children on the topic of internet and social media safety.
First and foremost, parents are encouraged to be involved.
Be sure to know passwords and monitor each app and the accounts associated with your child. Be sure to look for multiple accounts, as well. Kids are adapting to the idea of being monitored and creating multiple accounts for apps like Snapchat and Kik for the purpose of hiding improper content from their parents.
Be vigilant and don’t be fooled.
“Checking your child’s phone will raise some flags for some parents, but it has to happen,” Morabito said
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