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.

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.

 


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@valleyrecord.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.valleyrecord.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn
King County Councilmember Dunn will challenge Rep. Kim Schrier for U.S. Congress seat

The current County Councilmember would be following in his late mother’s footsteps

Garbage at the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill in Maple Valley. FILE PHOTO
King County and Port of Seattle to collaborate on waste-to-fuel study

The study is aimed at identifying logistics of developing aviation fuel out of municipal garbage.

File photo. Snoqualmie City Clerk Jodi Warren swears in re-elected councilmembers Katherine Ross and Sean Sundwall in 2020 city council meeting.
Snoqualmie City Council looks to appoint new member

The Snoqualmie City Council will have a vacant position to fill beginning… Continue reading

James Aquirre (middle left) being sworn in by Police Chief Perry Phipps (middle right) at a city council meeting on Aug. 9, 2021. File photo by Conor Wilson/Valley Record.
Investigators secure video evidence in Snoqualmie officer-involved shooting

Investigators with the King County Independent Force Investigation Team (IFIT) said they… Continue reading

file photo
Department of Health announces QR code verification program to prove vaccination status

WA Verify is intended to make vaccine verification simpler and more efficient.

Patti Cole-Trindall
King County Executive appoints Patti Cole-Tindall as interim sheriff

Cole-Tindall has a background in the sheriff’s office and county government.

King County Councilmember-elect Sarah Perry and a celebration photo, courtesy of her campaign manager Robby Paige.
Sarah Perry pushes 20-year incumbent out of King County Council District 3 position

By Hannah Saunders, For Sound Publishing Following her first campaign for a… Continue reading

Tony Persson, general manager of the North Bend Ace Hardware. Photo by Conor Wilson/Valley Record.
Lack of transit, housing crisis and pandemic fuel local labor shortage

There are nearly 3,000 unfilled positions in the Snoqualmie Valley.

Photo of Boalch Avenue in North Bend, part of the Meadowbrook neighborhood. Courtesy of the City of North Bend
North Bend City Council delays vote on joining Meadowbrook ULID

For years, private property owners have tried to extend public sewer system into neighborhood.

Most Read