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Panel, Parents Discuss Internet Safety for Kids

This story has been updated to modify information regarding what a parent said.

OSSINING, N.Y. – Parents who attended an Internet safety presentation at Ossining High School on Tuesday evening shared their concerns about children using phones during school class time, children communicating with others safely and children being involved in cyberbullying.

Martha Klein of Ossining said that one of her daughter's middle school friends updated her Facebook site at 10 a.m. when there is no free period or lunch period.

Sue Montgomery, the mother of two children, 10 and 12, said she and her husband want to know how their children are using email, so they've configured their children's email accounts so that all emails are copied to their father.

Jeremy Luft, the director of technology for the Ossining school district, said school administrators' responses to cell phones have ranged from requiring students to check in their phones at the door to buying cell phones for students so that they can text answers back and forth to each other. He also noted that schools can block students from accessing certain websites on computers within the school, but that doesn't stop them from accessing the sites outside of school or on their phones.

Luft was part of a five-member panel who presented information and tips for Internet usage. The Internet safety presentation was the first in a series of four programs on Internet safety that have been funded by the Verizon Foundation.

Ossining High School student George Staudter put some perspective on the issue of students using their phones during class time by saying that even if teachers keep students from using their phones during class, kids can always write notes on pieces of paper and pass them to someone in the room.

"Parent should tell children not to text in class, but if their report cards are high enough, maybe it's not such a problem," Staudter said.

Brian Purdy, a county police officer, said that cyberbullying, which is when someone repeatedly makes fun of or picks on someone else online, often anonymously, is taken seriously but resources for identifying a cyberbully are often not used unless there has been criminal action.

Keynote speaker Twanna Hines who is the co-chair of the Youth Outreach Committee at Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic, said children ages eight to 18 years old spend seven and a half hours every day with media, whether it is the Internet, television, radio or print media.

Hines gave five tips for using the Internet safely and responsibly: Don't assume anything posted on the Internet will remain private; Be aware that you can not change your mind in cyberspace – once something is sent or posted, it will never truly go away; Don't give in to pressure to do something that makes you uncomfortable, even if it is in cyberspace; Consider the reaction of the recipient to your message or post; Remember that nothing is truly anonymous.

The next Internet safety event funded by Verizon is scheduled to take place on March 20. The program will address Facebook and its various settings for privacy.

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