Traverse City Record-Eagle


April 28, 2013

Law enforcement, schools offer cybersafety tips for parents

TRAVERSE CITY — Call it the digital dilemma.

School kids today know more about the Internet, computers, social media, cellphones and chat rooms than their parents.

That doesn’t mean they know how to handle cyber predators, thieves, bullies and hackers.

At the same time, parents want to fulfill their responsibility to protect their children from harm, but don’t know how in a fast-paced and ever-changing digital world.

A national Pew Research Center study published last month revealed that 78 percent of teens now have a cellphone, and almost half (47 percent) of those own smartphones. That translates to 37 percent of all teens who have smartphones, up from just 23 percent in 2011.

One in four teens are “cell-mostly” Internet users, which means they typically access the Web using their phones, according to the Pew report. Meanwhile, most cybercrimes today occur via cellphones rather than computers.

With all that in mind, Traverse City Area Public Schools and the Grand Traverse County Sheriff Office offered an online safety presentation April 18 at Traverse City West Senior High to parents interested in learning more about the digital world and ways to help parents protect their kids from online dangers.

“TC West administrators realized, through conversations with parents, that their awareness and experience with the Internet varies greatly and many could use some support and strategies,” said Juleen Jenkins-Whall, a West chemistry teacher and part-time interim assistant principal who organized the event.

Detective Jason Otting offered insights into what he has encountered as the sheriff department’s cybercrime investigator. TCAPS technology director Todd Neibauer discussed the importance of parents having ongoing conversations with their children about Internet use and appropriate safeguards, somewhat analogous to how parents prepare teens to be independent drivers.

Tips they offered to parents include:

-Educate yourself about your kids’ Internet habits. How much time are they spending online? Who are they communicating with? What web site do they visit.

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