School warns of online predators

Meadow View Elementary School first-grade teacher Linda Hogue speaks with school parents about Internet safety during a Sept. 22 meeting. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

With constantly changing mobile technology, elementary-aged children can be easy victims for online predators and cyber bullies, a Meadow View Elementary School teacher told a group of parents Sept. 22.

During the school’s monthly Parents Involved in Education group meeting, Meadow View first-grade teacher Linda Hogue shared several tips to help children stay safe while they are online.

“I have been teaching for 24 years overall, and I have seen a lot of changes in technology over the years. When I first started teaching, I had no computer of my own,” Hogue said. “We have gone from computers just to play educational games to nearly everything having Internet capabilities.

“That opens up research and communication, but it also opens up threats,” she said to about 20 parents in attendance.

Hogue said young children typically do not have the same “filters” adults do, and will sometimes post personal information freely in public areas of the Internet. She also said young children often will click on potentially malicious pop-up ads.

“Kids are getting introduced to this technology at a young age,” Hogue said, noting she has been teaching Internet safety classes to children for about a decade, and to parents for about three years.

“Kids don’t have the same filters in place that adults do, and that can be dangerous in chat rooms and public areas,” she added.

Hogue said online predators often will seek to extract personal information from children and attempt to meet them in person.

“Be aware that there are people out there who want to meet your child, not because they want to be friends with them, but because they want to be a predator,” Hogue said. “You don’t want predators to be able to identify your child or target them.”

She encouraged parents to be on the lookout for gifts such as webcams and prepaid cell phones, which could come from predators, she said.

Hogue also said the Internet has made it easier for kids to be cyber bullied, and said children will often suddenly stop using a cell phone or computer, seem withdrawn from others or seem nervous when they receive a text message or email if they have been cyber bullied.

“Cyber bullying is something we have a lot of problems with,” she said. “Spreading rumors or gossip online, posting photos without the consent of another person or saying something mean online could all be considered cyber bullying.”

Hogue said websites such as Netsmartz.org provide several tools parents can use to keep their kids safer online.