Facing realities of 'cyber trouble' PTO, MVP-SOS to host parents' seminar

PTO, MVP-SOS to host parents' Internet seminar

Do you know what a Hotornot rating is and how it can affect a child's self-esteem?

Do you know what an X-Box live outing is?

Or, do you know how a child's use of a BitTorrent program through his or her Smartphone or computer may make parents legally liable?

These questions will be among those on the agenda Dec. 6 at a symposium at Sarah Noble Intermediate School n New Milford.

Katie Kostner of Campus Outreach Services will present a crash course on these and other things parents need to know to protect their children, and themselves, in an Internet world.

Ms. Kostner's talk, "A Cyber World of Trouble," will start at 7:30 p.m. in the school cafetorium.

The event will be sponsored by the New Milford PTO and MVP-SOS (Motivational Volunteers Promoting the Spirit of Sports).

"This is an essential topic that parents should learn about," said PTO president Christine Zona. "Our children are online, on social networking sites like Facebook. We don't always know what is considered inflammatory speech."

Ms. Zona noted the recent case of a Schaghticoke Middle School student who has been suspended for the remainder of the school year for a post in which he was alleged to have threatened a school administrator.

"He thought he was having a private conversation," Ms. Zona said. "Pre-teens and even teens don't have an awareness of the full consequences of their online posts."

During her presentation to parents, Ms. Kostner will discuss issues pertaining to Facebook, Smartphones, gaming and cyber bullying.

She will provide real-life examples of how misguided use of technology by adolescents could lead to serious, often life-altering, consequences.

"Parents can overestimate their child's ability to process the cyber world," Ms. Kostner said, "underestimate the lack of privacy afforded with technology, and easily let technology become the parent."

She said even an act as seemingly harmless as text messaging on a cell phone has potential danger.

The Pew Research Center website shows 75 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds own cell phones. Of them, 88 percent are text messagers. One in three teens send more than 100 text messages daily.

Thus, one in three teens are having roughly more than 3,000 conversations monthly in rooms where no words are spoken.

Ms. Kostner explained it can feel to the teens like they are conversing in privacy. Unfortunately, the digital footprint of these text message can go on indeterminately.

The New Milford PTO encourages parents and grandparents to attend Ms. Kostner's talk, which will not be open to students.

Admission will be free.

"Our children are online, on social networking sites like Facebook. We don't always know what is considered inflammatory speech."

Christine Zona

New Milford PTO president