In addition to study habits, extracurricular activities and planning for future careers, one of the main things parents of middle school and high school students have to be concerned with these days is Internet safety and how it can lead to HIB incidents.
As part of a program set up for parents of students entering grades 6 and 9 at the , the district welcomed Drew Donofrio, a former police officer and investigator with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, who was on hand to address parents on Internet safety.
Donofrio told parents that the updated HIB law (harassment, intimidation and bullying) may sound like it paints and gloomy and dim picture but it’s really being done to protect the kids.
He briefly went over the ins and outs of what is now required by school systems in having to investigate every reported incident whether it turns out to qualify as HIB or not.
He advised parents to work together if they are ever faced with that phone call from a school administrator notifying them that their son or daughter is somehow involved in an HIB investigation. In his experience he’s actually seen parents become at odds over these situations and when that happens nothing gets resolved.
Donofrio painted a clear picture of what the Internet and other electronic devices like cell phones and applications like Facebook means to the kids today. He referred to the time when he grew up and was able to leave anyone in his school environment that bothered him behind at 3 p.m. These days that is not the case. Kids these days are connected continuously.
Kids themselves have not changed but the electronics that have changed their landscape. Bullying is nothing new, Donofrio says pointing out that it’s existed since the 1800s way before these computers were ever even made. These electronic based programs have opened the door to what is known as cyber bullying.
“Facebook is now bullying headquarters,” he says referring to how kids can slam each other on the social network site. He also gave examples of how easily one can hide behind a screen name to get personal information.
He shared several examples from the investigations he has done over the years to show parents how easily inappropriate images or videos can get posted on the web. He told parents videos with content that may not be so flattering for some can easily be posted to YouTube, and go viral with hundreds of thousands of hits.
Donofrio advised the parents to talk to their kids about the consequences of what can happen with such information being released on the Internet. In fact there are many cases where even though something is taken down it can still be found by searching website caches, he said.
He pointed out that a 17-year-old may not fully know what type of career to choose one day and certain things like an inappropriate photo or video could come back to haunt him or her someday and therefore is something to think about before it happens, he advised. “No one wants to be judged by one act,” he pointed out.
Donofrio told parents to be aware of what their kids may possibly be seeing on the Internet. Access to pornography sites or child pornography sites is easier than they may think and videos and photos can be sent from friends or even strangers they may be corresponding with online.
What can be found out there is “revolting” he says and it’s important for kids to know that these images are not a realistic view and should be advised by their parents.