Parents listened closely Monday night to a presentation designed to get them thinking about what they should be aware of when it comes to this electronic world their children live in and how bullying and therefore the HIB law come in to play.
The Hasbrouck Heights School District brought cyber-bully expert Drew D’Onofrio back to speak to parents about what the HIB law entails and the role they should play in gaining their authority back when it comes to this law.
The former police officer and Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office investigator, who now does consulting work, spent more than an hour addressing parents on bullying and how the technological world these children live in today comes into play.
D’Onofrio, who is a parent himself, went through all the examples of the types of interactions teens could have from boys getting into physical confrontations to girls calling each other names in person or online. He quizzed parents on what types of incidents qualified as bullying and others that did not and went through the many consequences kids can face especially in the online world.
“Once it’s on the Internet it’s mass-produced,” he advised parents referring to a video posted on YouTube or an embaressing photo sent to someone believed to be a trusted friend that winds up on Facebook.
He pointed out that in most cases kids know more than their parents do about computers. It may be easy for parents to think their children are safe up in their rooms but the computer connects them to a world so big, so global it can’t be easily policed therefore parents need to be aware of the things they are exposed to.
D’Onforio suggests children should not have a Facebook page until age 13 or 14 and parents should have full access to it. He has learned from addressing younger children that many age 10 have Facebook pages and many have admitted to have accounts their parents are unaware of.
He addressed how the HIB law changes, which are now in the second year, put these incidents in the hands of the schools almost making them “little police departments” conducting investigations which the majority of turn out to be deemed as non HIB incidents.
His advice to parents whose children could be involved in one of these investigations is to keep cool and try to work it out with the parents of the other children involved. He says it’s very easy to feel as though an injustice is being done against one’s child but being confrontational and refusing to try to work it out means “you’ve checked out” he told parents and therefore there can’t be a resolve.
Although one does not know how the other parents will react, if the parents at least try to play their part in working towards a resolve they are taking back the control they have regarding this law, he advised.
He also spoke about some of the issues older teens may be dealing with concerning dating violence and the types of questions they should ask when speaking with their kids. He advised parents to be aware of how they present themselves as being available to talk and to remain involved and to watch for warning signs of emotional abuse.
Retired from law enforcement, D’Onofrio now does consulting work with his company Cyberology Consultants.
The community forum served as a kick-off to the district’s Week of Respect, a full slate of activities and programs being conducted in the classrooms devoted to teaching students how to respect themselves and each other.
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