This past week I was watching the local news, and saw a story about a grown man that was ‘living in the closet’ of a teenage girl. The report says that this man who is from Louisiana, and this young girl, who lives in our backyard of SpringHill (Hernando County) met on a social media platform called VRChat. The details of the story are appalling, and yet not completely foreign. Sadly, we have seen stories like this and other stories of bullying, kidnapping or other situations where our children are put at risk.
After dealing with the shocking nature of this story, my mind immediately began thinking about the circumstances that allowed this to happen. I admit, I have no idea what VRChat is. Never heard of it before this story. Admittedly, I am not familiar with a lot of apps that children use these days. Sure, I’ve heard of TikTok, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and some others, but I don’t know a lot about how they can be exploited to take advantage of our children. You know what? I’m not alone. There are a great many parents out there who are in the same situation. Many of them are lost when it comes to technology or may have a basic understanding and feel comfortable with apps like Facebook or Twitter, but have no clue about the dangers that exists on these other platforms.
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, every so often, will post ‘The Fifteen Apps Parents Should Know About’. As of this writing, they shared it a few days ago, and the graphic says it was updated in August 2019. This is a great resource, and I thank the PCSO for sharing it. Unfortunately, I think there is still a gap in education when it comes to understanding the threats that these apps and websites pose. It’s one thing to check your child’s phone to see if they have one of these apps, but how do you tell what information they are sharing, who they are talking to and what other risk factors should you be aware of.
I have said that, as superintendent, I will focus on parents and the community. This is a prime example. I believe that the school system, in a partnership with the Sheriff’s office should be working to provide more education to the community. There should be education on the dangers and penalties that could stem from online activity, especially for middle and high school students. More importantly, we need to better educate parents. We need to hold meetings and trainings for parents so that they understand how to use these apps and what to look out for to keep their children safe.
I think it is a shame that this is not being done already. We need leaders who can anticipate the future, identify problems before they occur and provide solutions before situations become dire, or people get hurt. If you do a bit of research, you will see that Sheriff Nocco and Superintendent Browning appear to have quite a good relationship. You would think they could channel that into something that would truly benefit the community. If elected, I will work closely with the PCSO, not just for photo-ops and charity events, but to form a partnership to better the community through information and education.
Posted on 05 Oct 2020, 21:55 - Category: Education First