Parents learn a lesson in social media

WINNECONNE – Some area parents got a lesson in social media Tuesday night.

The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office sat moms and dads down and told them what teens really do online. For some parents, it was a surprise.

As the father of a 13-year-old boy, Matt Blakesley realizes he has a lot to learn about social media.

“It’s eye-opening. We don’t know everything and it’s just constantly changing, so you’ve got to be constantly alert,” said Blakesley.

The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office opened a lot of parents’ eyes Tuesday in Winneconne. Deputies taught a master class in social media and how teens use it.

They also explained how predators use those same apps and websites to prey on children.

“They create that relationship, and when that relationship has been created it advances to the next level where inappropriate things may be asked,” said Deputy Peter Ehlert.

The officers went over the dangers of sexting. They explained the damaging effects of cyber-bullying, how technology has made some people less compassionate.

“If you do it directly to somebody you get to see how they react and it’s going to have an effect on you, but when we use technology we don’t always see how the other person reacts and what we think is funny may be hurting somebody,” Ehlert explained.

Finally, the deputies showed parents some popular apps teenagers use and how to use them.

“It’s our responsibility as their parents, as their mentors to know so that they can be safe while they’re using these apps. And they are changing, they’re constantly changing,” said Ehlert.

What’s popular today might not be tomorrow. So the officers told moms and dads to closely monitor their children’s electronic devices.

A lesson Blakesley took to heart.

“Check some things out on the computer and the iPod and see what’s going on there, look at the apps that he has and see if they’re appropriate. I guess we’ve just taken this for granted sometimes and we just have to have that talk,” said Blakesley.

The sheriff’s deputies said these lessons are especially important in light of the recent sexting investigation at Menasha High School.

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