For safety, QE parents advised to keep close watch of their child’s use of technology

Mary Worthington

Mary Worthington of NOVA
about online safety to Quakertown
Elementary School parents.

By Gary Weckselblatt

Though the audience was elementary school parents, moms and dads of all school age children were warned about the dangers their students face when it comes to online technology, whether on the computer or a phone.

"You want to be knowing what's going on in your child's life," said Mary Worthington, the Elementary Education Coordinator for the Network of Victim Assistance (NOVA), "especially online because it's a difficult world out there. They may know more about technology than you do, but you know about people. Check in with your child. Let them know you're there to help them."

NOVA works with victims of sexual assault and other serious crimes in Bucks County to prevent and eliminate violence through advocacy, training, community education and prevention programs.

Worthington instructed parents at Quakertown Elementary School Tuesday for one hour on why they should keep a close watch on what their students are doing online. She covered everything from cyber bullying, social media apps to be wary of and the risks connected to cyber associations.

"Education is so key for our parents, our students, our community," said Eileen Bruchak, QE's guidance counselor. "It's important to work together to keep our kids safe, and to stay on top of the latest trends."

Worthington said 58 percent of children don't tell their parents when they are being bullied online because they're afraid of losing access to their device.

She explained that when children get to grades 5 to 8, they're relationships change and they're looking for approval from peers. Tweens, she said, use phones as mirrors, and often take pictures of themselves.

Young people can be pressured by a boyfriend or a girlfriend.

"We always think it's just girls… it can happen to boys too," Worthington said. "If you have boys at home, the conversation is just as important."

Online, your youngster might be told things like, "If you really like me you'll send me a picture of yourself, a revealing picture. Lots of times that's a difficult thing to turn down. They feel pressured. You won't be my girlfriend anymore. It'll be just for me."

While online bullying has become a major challenge among young people, there's also the horrific threat of adult predators.

Worthington said predators will try to flatter your child and take them into a private chat room, where they'll attempt to form a relationship with them by asking what problems they have. They'll also warn your youngster to not tell your parents about their conversations.

"That's a big, red flag," she said. "We all know that technology is here to stay. We want them to have a really good online footprint. You're here, so you know what I'm talking about."

This is not the first presentation given in the Quakertown Community School District on cyber safety. In November, Quakertown Police Officer Bob Lee, school district Director of Technology Joseph Kuzo, and Christopher Reed of Verizon Wireless held a session for parents at the District Services Center. Here is their Student Online Safety presentation.

Gary Weckselblatt, director of communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or [email protected].

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