Sue Scheff: Parents Learn More about Protecting their Kids Online

Parents bone up on Net safety



Nearly every hand went up when a group of students at Roberson High were asked if they had ever accessed a social networking site.

When that same question was posed to parents and educators, less than half could say the same.

The divide that exists between parents and their children on the Internet is part of the problem when it comes to protecting children on the Web, said officials at an Internet safety symposium Saturday at the Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.

“I didn’t have computer class in high school,” said Alan Flora, a criminal specialist with the State Bureau of Investigations Computer Crimes Unit. “For those of you sitting in the audience saying, ‘Blah, blah, blah is all I hear,’ I am with you. I challenged myself. I basically got in there and started surfing, and I am now working in the computer crimes unit.”

About 200 people learned about cyber bullying, Internet predators and other Internet safety topics at the symposium hosted by a Leadership Asheville team. The event was meant to not only educate community members but also motivate them. The team is working to bring the Internet safety curriculum i-SAFE to Asheville City and Buncombe County Schools.

“The adults in the community know there’s a problem and are looking for leaders in the community to help them educate themselves so they can protect children,” said Joe Grady, a Realtor and member of the team.

Video clips told the audience stories of individual families affected by the dangers on the Internet. Miss New Jersey Amy Polumbo and spokesperson for i-SAFE spoke about how she began living her platform when someone blackmailed her using photos on her facebook profile.

Patti Agatston, one of the authors of “Cyber Bullying: Bullying in the Digital Age,” told parents about the growing, dangerous trend of children turning to the Internet to torment their peers.

Perhaps the most informative part of the symposium came at the end. Audience members questioned panelists who ranged from Asheville police Capt. Tim Splain to Assistant U.S. Attorney Don Gast. They wanted to know what law enforcement is doing to protect the community, what resources were out there for them and whether the risks extended across racial and economic lines.

“I am just glad to have this,” said Derek Evans, who is a father and works with Cub Scouts. “This has given me some things to share with the boys and to bring home to my own son.”

The next step is turning the symposium into action. The Leadership Asheville team will be in touch with the attendees to start a larger community group. Representatives from i-SAFE will also contact both school districts on how to best implement the curriculum in the schools.

What is i-safe?

I-SAFE is a nonprofit Internet safety education organization that provides modules for adults and children and classroom lessons for teachers. It will cost about $40,000 to bring the program to Asheville City and Buncombe County Schools. The Leadership Asheville team is prepared to raise the money.