Law Enforcement, Parents Talk Online Safety After School Threats

February 26, 2018 11:58 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- Amid a wave of threats toward area schools in recent days, parents in Austin met with an investigator from the Mower County Sheriff's Office to talk about potential red flags in their kids' online activities.

More than a dozen parents attended a presentation at Ellis Middle School led by Sgt. Investigator Steven Sandvik, who stressed communication between parents and kids as the best way to address issues before they become unsafe.


The multiple threats against area schools in recent days, including in Austin, were on the mind as well, something Sandvik addressed.

"There are very serious consequences, even if they think they're just joking," he said. "There are examples all across the entire country that happen daily where kids make these statements on social media and in person and law enforcement follows up and they end up with real, serious trouble."

Evelyn Napton, a mother of three and a teacher in Austin, said she attended Monday's presentation to try to get on the same level as her kids when it comes to understanding the latest issues with technology.

"My son knows a lot more than I do already, and he’s constant learning," she said. "I feel like he’s two steps ahead of me."

Napton said she's happy with the amount of safety information her kids are learning in school, where technology increasingly plays a daily role in the classroom. But some parents may end up being left behind.

"[The schools] ask for assistance in teaching parents how to take care of their own children and ward off problems before they start," Sandvik said.

As companies like Facebook target younger and younger kids by releasing standalone applications designed for younger consumers, police say parents have more reasons than ever to keep an eye on their kids' digital lives.

"The digital world is growing so fast and moving so fast, that I think as parents we need to be on top of things," Napton said.

Sandvik recommends that parents establish rules for the kid's use online and that they know their child's passwords; so if issues come up, they can have a conversation before getting the police involved.


Logan Reigstad

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