Parents learn how to deal with child’s technology addictions

Mexico Middle School PTO held a CyberSafety Awareness Night last week and parents especially learned some shocking information about their child's cell phone and computer.

Parents and students attended six sessions, or as many as they wanted. Each session lasted 10 minutes Topics for discussion included: "Parenting Teens," presented by Central Missouri Community Action; "Teens and the Law," presented by Audrain County Juvenile Office; "Cyberbulling" presented by Kevin Patrick the school's Resource Officer; "Sexting" presented by Audrain County Health Department; "Apps," presented by the school's principal Deb-Hill Haag; and "Dating Violence" presented by Audrain County Crisis Intervention Services Inc.

As parents and students went from room to room they (especially parents) were learning the dangers of technology when it comes to the above topics.

Kerri Ferrari, chief deputy juvenile officer for the 12th Circuit, talked to the parents about juveniles and the law. She explained kids under the age of 17 fall under the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Justice System. She said she may received referrals from community members, schools, law enforcement, family services. She also explained that some juveniles can be certified to stand trial as adults.

In her 10 minutes, Ferrari touched on possession of child pornography; promotion of child pornography; and furnishing pornographic materials to minors. She also explained that juvenile's who are convicted of any felony sexual offense will be required to be placed on the juvenile Sex Offender Registry. New in 2017 is that harassment can now be prosecuted as a felony, due to the popularity and seriousness of bullying and cyberbullying.

Ferrari said it is important for kids to make other kids aware of cybercrimes, like bullying and sexting.

"Encourage kids to tell someone," was the message Patrick had for parents when he was discussing Cyberbullying. He told parents it easy to bully someone with a cellphone or computer. "When we were young, if you wanted to bully someone, you had to face them," he said. Now kids can hide behind their electronic devices. He encouraged parents to check the children's emails including, trash, inbox and sentbox. Snapchat he said is the worst when it comes to bullying, because it disappears in the matter of 10 seconds. Students should take a screenshot immediately so they have evidence.

He told of some signs that may appear from a child being cyberbullied, including stop using their phone, depressed, and even eating more.

Parents should also keep a tab on the Apps on their child's phone. "Always check who your child is following," said Hill-Haag. There are Apps that look like normal Apps, like the calculator App, when in fact it is a place kids can hide things from their parents. The MMS principal suggested parents monitor the Apps their child is downloading. "Be a role model, set expectations and follow through," she said.

Hill-Haag said she read somewhere that technology to kids is like heroin because it (technology) is so addictive to them and the more they use it the more they want it.

She also said it is a good plan to take the phone away from their child at night and keep it in their room.

All the presenters suggested that parents have control over their child's phone, and know their password and check the phone and computer often.