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Parents Get ‘Social’ With Some Help

Local youngsters gave their parents a lesson on social media as the new social life.

In an effort to bring parents up to speed on the ever-changing world of technology, a student-run presentation developed and delivered by the Massapequa High School Student Advisory Council — a  40 member student government organization — opened up the eyes of parents as they learned the values and dangers associated with Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Tumblr and Ask.fm.

The event, held in Massapequa High School’s cyber café and surrounding classrooms, drew about 60 parents and was organized like a mini school day. Participants spent about 20 minutes in each “class,” according to Dr. Thomas Fasano, assistant to the superintendent of curriculum and instruction who advises the Council in collaboration with Massapequa High School Principal, Dr. Barbara Williams and Massapequa High School-Ames Campus Principal Patrick DiClemente.

“Parents were clearly impressed by the amount of effort the students put into their presentation and how knowledgeable they were about the various social media sites,” said Fasano.

While some students taught the classes using Power Point, SMART Boards and other instructional tools, others were planted in the audience to help parents navigate their mobile devices. The most important advice they conveyed to parents: be careful what your children post, be aware of how to set privacy settings and stay on top of your child’s social media habits without being too invasive.

While Facebook is a great source to share photos and information, “many parents didn’t realize that their children can block them from certain posts on Facebook, even though they are ‘friends’ with them,” said Matt S., junior class president who presented the site that evening. He also showed parents how to set up privacy settings to control who sees the posts.

Sophomore class president Jake R. warned parents about children posting inappropriate photos of themselves or others on Instagram or Snapchat.

“Even when you delete these photos they never really go away,” he said. “They can still be found on their servers.”

Fasano warned parents and students alike that while posting photos can seem harmless, there are some unforeseen consequences.

“What many device users aren’t aware of are the legal ramifications some of these photos can pose,” Fasano said. “They can also be held against you during college or job interviews.”

Jacqui F., president of the senior class, mostly focused on the positive side of the social media site, Twitter, during her presentation.

“It’s great for news, sports, information about the community and has a lot of benefits if it is used correctly,” she said. “It is also the most common form of social media used by students my age.”

On the other hand, Ask.fm, an anonymous question-and-answer platform common with middle schoolers, seemed to be short on benefits. The site, which has been in existence for about three years, has been a source of issue with school officials because of the potential dangers that arise when students post anything they wish without being identified.

“If your child has Ask.fm, try to understand why your child has it and what they are doing with it and then try to urge your child to get off of it, rather than demand that your child close their account,” said General Organization (G.O.) President Jenna P., who presented the site to parents. “It’s important that parents handle it in the right way. I helped a mother who suspected her daughter had an Ask.fm account and found the account for her. I simply Googled her daughter’s name and put Ask.fm next to it. The mother was shocked to see that this came up as a top search.”

One of the newer social media sites starting to gain traction is called Tumblr. Presented by Ames Student Council members, the site is generally used to connect people with similar interests, particularly in arts and entertainment. According to Student Council Publicity Coordinator Kristin A., users get their own URL and set up a blog where you can put your interests as well as photos, videos, statuses and links. The dangers, however, are that there are no privacy settings. Everyone can see what is posted. Also, questions can be posted anonymously so users don’t know who they are responding to. That anonymity can open the door to cyber-bullying, which cannot be blocked on this site. If a user wants to block someone, they need to close the unwanted account and open a new one.

“I think the presentation went really well,” said vice president Ryan C. “We got our point across.”

The students are planning to deliver similar presentations to seventh graders at Berner Middle School and sixth graders at the six elementary schools in February in an effort to see what sites they are using and to ensure that they are using them responsibly.

“They need to hear it from us and learn from our mistakes,” Jenna said.

The Advisory Council also hopes to continue its social media presentations as a long-range mission to protect and inform students and parents as the number of social media sites expand and evolve.