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Forest Hills parents take Internet safety journey

Jill Stout, an instructional technology facilitator at Forest Hills High School, speaks to parents about the importance of helping their students understand safety on the Internet.

About 20 parents of students at Forest Hills High School and East Union Middle School attended a workshop at Forest Hills High School Tuesday (Oct. 28, 2014) in a session called "Get Connected: Keeping up with Your Kids Online."

Parents received information about cyber safety, cyber bullying, digital citizenship, and online resources. Jill Stout, an instructional technology facilitator at Forest Hills High School, said that there are incidents of cyber bullying and other inappropriate online activities by students all over the world.

“Tonight is important because I think it’s safe to say it could happen here,” Stout said. “Our goal is to open up conversations between parents and the school.”

Forest Hills Assistant Principal Adrien Porter told parents that cyber bullying could happen via email, instant messaging, text messages and/or chat rooms.

“There could be distribution of embarrassing photos, posting rumors online, sending mean, embarrassing or threatening texts, instant messages or emails,” he said. “One in three kids are bullied by the time they reach high school. Those students who are bullied are 1.7 times more likely to attempt suicide.”

Porter told parents they should communicate with their child and have a plan for how they will react to bullying. Some options, he said, are don’t respond, block or delete the bully, save evidence of bullying, set up a new social media account, tell an adult they trust about the bullying, and contact the authorities.

Some of the signs that a student is being bullied, Porter said, are a new reluctance to
go to school, a change in eating or sleeping habits, failing grades for no apparent reason, appearing stressed, and avoiding using the computer or the cell phone.

Porter stressed that parents should be a friend on their child’s Facebook page in order to keep up with what is being said on that page.

Stout warned parents that they should stress with their students that millions of people can see what they post and that everything is searchable. “Children don’t get to leave childhood behind,” she said. “It’s always searchable.”

She warned that posting or texting inappropriate things could affect their careers later in life. “Sexting info can go viral,” she said. “Once something is out there, it’s almost impossible to get it back or to erase it.”

Stout told parents that privacy settings should be as strict as possible. “Our kids are in a different world and this will be part of their lives for the rest of their lives.”

Melissa Howell, Forest Hills media coordinator, showed parents how to access the online resources like databases and ebooks that are available through the school website.

Forest Hill teacher Jennifer Whitley spoke with parents about Power School Parent Portal, which allows them to keep up with their students’ academic information and ongoing schoolwork. Whitley then assisted parents (who did not have an account) in setting up an account.

One parent, Monica Newsome, said the workshop was important in order to remind parents and students of the precautions they should take.

“Knowledge is power,” she said. “I want to get as much knowledge as I can. It’s important to learn about the websites they get on and to be able to check them.”

Parent Krista Hall said she came to learn more about how to protect her seventh grader. “This gives us a better understand what they’re doing at school and how we can help them and check them online.”

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Oct 31, 2014 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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