By Pat Cooper
A Whitewater Middle School student found out the hard way that not everybody is honest on the internet.
Just before Christmas, the school was the subject of a bomb threat hoax after the Fayette County Sheriff’s office was told a teacher at the school had planted a bomb that was set to go off on the following Saturday.
Principal Connie Baldwin told parents that the sheriff’s office had received notification from the Federal Bureau of Investigation about the threat. As a precaution, after-school activities were suspended so that bomb dogs could walk through the school. Nothing was found.
“It has been concluded that the threat was a hoax. One of our students had been communicating with a person over the internet who the child thought was in Europe. The student gave out enough personal information that the individual was able to call the child at home. A conversation took place about the child's teachers. The individual, using the name of one of the teachers, sent the threat.”
Baldwin assured parents that the schools are safe and that protecting the safety of our students and staff is a top priority. Our school day ran as scheduled with no incidents resulting from the hoax.” She said she would update parents as more information is revealed.
“It’s really an object lesson for parents to be aware of who their children are communicating with on the internet,” said Fayette County Board of Education spokesperson Melinda Berry-Dreisbach.
Berry-Dreisbach’s comment jives with the information the FBI gives parents on internet safety.
“Most children that fall victim to computer-sex offenders spend large amounts of time online, particularly in chat rooms. They may go online after dinner and on the weekends. They may be latchkey kids whose parents have told them to stay at home after school. They go online to chat with friends, make new friends, pass time, and sometimes look for sexually explicit information. While much of the knowledge and experience gained may be valuable, parents should consider monitoring the amount of time spent online.”
The FBI recommends talking with children about sexual victimization and other potential online dangers and spending time online together to teach your kids appropriate online behavior.
- Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child's bedroom. It is much more difficult for a computer-sex offender to communicate with a child when the computer screen is visible to a parent or another member of the household.
- Utilize parental controls provided by your service provider and/or blocking software. While electronic chat can be a great place for children to make new friends and discuss various topics of interest, it is also prowled by computer-sex offenders. Use of chat rooms, in particular, should be heavily monitored. While parents should utilize these mechanisms, they should not totally rely on them.
- Monitor your credit card and phone bills for unfamiliar account charges.
- Always maintain access to your child's online account and randomly check his/her e-mail. Be aware that your child could be contacted through the U.S. Mail. Be up front with your child about your access and reasons why.
- Find out what computer safeguards are utilized by your child's school, the public library, and at the homes of your child's friends. These are all places, outside your normal supervision, where your child could encounter an online predator.