More than 25 parents came to Oak Ridge Middle School Tuesday night to learn about ways to protect and monitor their kids’ activities online.
Recently, parents were shocked when accounts on the social media site, Twitter, targeted local high school students, mainly girls. Three of the four Twitter accounts no longer exist. Linn-Mar planned Tuesday’s forum prior to a rash of cyberbullying, but it could not have come at a better time.
“My kids made me aware of it,” said Judy Tehies, a Linn-Mar parent. “It’s something I just want to stay in tune with and understand better.”
Police are still investigating to find the people who were responsible for the cyberbullying.
“We are in contact with Twitter trying to sort things out,” said Marion police chief Harry Daugherty. “Hopefully we can resolve this in the near future. We’d like to get this taken care of.”
Detective Lance Miller is the lead investigator on the Twitter accounts. He was one of two key speakers talking with the parents about social media at Oak Ridge Middle School. The 45-minute forum allowed parents to ask questions and learn ways to monitor what their children are posting, sending and reading online and on their cell phones.
“Once you send it, you’ve lost all control of it. Getting that back is impossible,” Sgt. Miller said. “A minor thing can turn into something pretty significant.”
Katie Burrell also presented at the forum. Burrell, a forensic Interviewer with St. Luke’s Hospital, says parents need to be vigilant and monitor all devices that get their kids online. A good idea, she says, is for parents to check texts and having their own Twitter and Facebook accounts to read their kids’ pages and threads.
“Cyberbullying is just taking over,” Burrell said. “It’s up to the parents to be monitoring them, put those guidelines in place for them.”
It may be difficult, but police and school administrators say it’s part of parenting responsibilities today.
“It’s not so much where they’re going online,” said Sgt. Miller, “but what they’re doing and are you being monitored by a parent exercising good judgment.”
Police say cyberbullies can face criminal charges, but it’s not easy to do. Harassment is a simple misdemeanor, but investigators say that’s the charge they use most often in cyberbullying cases.
There is no specific charge for online bullying.