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May 7, 2013

Message not sent

Local educators tout dangers of social media but fear it's not getting through


Newfane's SRO, Niagara County Sheriff's Deputy Justin Birmingham, incorporates social media dangers as part of his DARE program. DARE, which stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, teaches kids the dangers of drugs, gangs and violence.

The Niagara County Youth Bureau's talks with health classes touch on the subject of social media, as does Newfane's annual Meet The Coaches Night for student-athletes.

"We do a lot of teaching," Stack said.

At the beginning of the school year, Wilson High School Principal Daniel Johnson speaks with each social studies class about what's expected of students and so on.

"I meet with all students in small groups, face-to-face," Johnson said. "That's one of the areas we cover."

One of the problems is teens don't seem to realize what they post online, stays online, Licata said. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter have privacy settings, but many don't use them.

"Once it's there, you can't take it off," Licata said.

That message is sent to students on a consistent basis, but some may not be getting it.

"Some aren't hearing us, it might be temporary forgetfulness or they don't think of the consequences," Stack said. "Social media is a very informal mode of contact."

Johnson said Wilson prohibits social media use during the school day. If a problem does arise, the school will get involved immediately if it needs to.

The best line of defense might just be the parents. Educators, as well as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, advise that parents should be aware of what the kids are doing on the computer, laptop, tablet and phone.

Parents should keep the computer in a high-traffic area of the home and monitor what goes on. Talking to the kids is vital, learning what they do online and who they talk to is strongly suggested.

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