Kids and the social network: As Valley’s elementary students go online, families need to surf safely

When Stefanie Thomas of the Seattle Police Department asked fifth grade students at Cascade View Elementary if they’d ever been bullied online, a third of the hands in the room shot up. The Internet safety presentation, held Monday, June 3, was intended to give future middle school students an awareness of the potential dangers of online activity. During her days off from the department, Thomas is hired by schools to talk about cyber safety. This slight, 28-year-old University of Washington grad has made hundreds of trips to Eastside schools, urging children to be aware of the Internet’s realities.

Advocate Stefanie Thomas tells fifth grade students at Cascade View Elementary that there is no excuse for online bullying.

By Kira Clark

Staff Intern

When Stefanie Thomas of the Seattle Police Department asked fifth grade students at Cascade View Elementary if they’d ever been bullied online, a third of the hands in the room shot up.

The Internet safety presentation, held Monday, June 3, was intended to give future middle school students an awareness of the potential dangers of online activity.

During her days off from the department, Thomas is hired by schools to talk about cyber safety. This slight, 28-year-old University of Washington grad has  made hundreds of trips to Eastside schools, urging children to be aware of the Internet’s realities.

Designed to help children learn how to protect themselves online, Thomas’ presentation covered cyber bullying, Facebook, gaming websites, and privacy precautions.

The talk was the first time Thomas has spoken at Cascade View Elementary.

Principal Ray Wilson is hopeful that her presentation will spark conversations between students and parents about appropriate Internet activity. The elementary school aims to teach children to be respectful, responsible, and safe—all qualities necessary for conscientious Internet users. Children ages 8 to 18 spend more than seven and a half hours a day using a smart phone, computer, television or other kind of electronic device, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“As these kids are moving on to middle school, they are going to have a lot more freedom,” Wilson said. “This is a great opportunity for them to start talking to their parents.”

Wilson said, turning to the room, “All right, I want everyone sitting on their pockets.” He instructed the students to give Thomas their full attention. “We want to set you up for success,” Wilson said to the fifth grade students. That means making wise choices about the Internet.

“Raise your hand if you are on Facebook,” Thomas said. A fourth of the hands shot up. Facebook users are required to be at least 13 years old—all the children in the room were under 11. “None of you are legally allowed to be on facebook,” Thomas said. “You have broken the law.”

Thomas cautioned students to remove all personal information from their public profiles. Privacy settings do not matter, there are ways around them.

“If you wouldn’t give personal information to random people on the street in downtown Seattle why are you posting it online?” Thomas asked.

Thomas played a short video to demonstrate how easy Internet stalking is. Within 20 minutes an Internet stalker on a music sharing chat room for teens found out a user’s full name, address, mother’s name, time she would be home, school, and phone number. The only information which was public on her profile was her hobby list and screen name, Teresa01.

Most cyber-bullying of elementary school children occurs in online games, Facebook, e-mail, or through text messaging. Bullying begins on the playground and often continues after school hours via technology. Thomas warned the group that fifth graders can get in trouble with the law for what they do online.

“If I put something on the Internet, can I really delete it? Is it really gone?” Thomas asked. “There are records of every single website you have ever been to on the Internet.” In the state of Washington it is illegal to post anything online to intimidate, torment, or embarrass anyone. Thomas’s unit has charged children as young as 11 with cyber-bullying.

If a child experiences cyber bullying, she should save a record of the attack and report the incident to an adult.

“If you are not going to do it in real life, then you should not do it online,” Thomas said. To learn more about cyber-bullying, go to www.cyber-safety.com.

 

More in News

Despite Supreme Court Ruling, activists fight youth incarceration in King County

No New Youth Jail Coalition members send Valentines to King County officials asking them to reconsider funding priorities

President’s emergency declaration sparks immediate legal backlash

Attorney General Bob Ferguson said his team will sue the White House if federal funds originally intended for Washington state are interrupted.

Bill targets sexual health curriculum in Washington schools

Senate Bill 5395 is co-sponsored by 17 Democratic representatives and introduced by Sen. Claire Wilson, D-Federal Way.

According to King County’s Mental Illness and Drug Dependency (MIDD) annual report, Seattle had the highest rate of people using services at 36 percent of the total, followed by 31 percent from South King County, 18 percent from the greater Eastside, and 7 percent from north county including Shoreline.
Study shows King County’s treatment funding is making progress

A document on the county’s .1 percent health sales tax was accepted Wednesday by the county council.

Captain Ron Mead, commander of the Washington State Patrol in King County, directs traffic on the top of Snoqualmie Pass. Photo courtesy of Trooper Rick Johnson.
Convoy leads Snoqualmie travelers to safety

Immense snowfall led to dicey conditions on the pass.

Courtesy photo
                                New Friends of Youth CEO, Paul Lwali, will replace Terry Pottmeyer.
Friends of Youth hires new CEO

Pottmeyer steps down; Lwali becomes new Friends of Youth CEO.

Russell Wilson and Ciara spoke Friday at the Tukwila Library to Foster students and other attendees as their Why Not You Foundation joined forces with the King County Library System and JPMorgan Chase to launch the DREAM BIG: Anything is Possible campaign. Photo by Kayse Angel
New teen campaign, DREAM BIG, kicked off Friday

Russell Wilson and Ciara were on hand to unveil limited edition library cards featuring the duo.

Bothell police recruits Amanda Rees and Dan Wiseman. Ashley Hiruko/staff photo
Police chiefs: More than a year to find, train new officers

HB1253 requires new hires complete basic training requirements within two months.

River stabilization project begins planning phase

The city of Snoqualmie has partnered with King County to install 400 feet of riverbank stabilization

Most Read