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Program to educate parents on dangers, benefits of social media

Jan. 9, 2014 |

By Chris Maza chrism@thereminder.com WILBRAHAM – The Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District (HWRSD) will host a program with the goal of educating parents on social media. The presentation, entitled A Parenting Guide to Managing Social Media and made possible through the Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant program, will take place on Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. in the Information Resource Center at Minnechaug Regional High School. Those interested in attending the event must register by Jan. 17. A registration form is available in Minnechaug’s January newsletter, which is available at www.edline.net/pages/Minnechaug_Regional_HS and can be returned via mail to Janet Farrell, HWRSD, 621 Main St., Wilbraham, MA 01095, fax at 566-5190, or email at jfarrell@hwrsd.org. Gina Kahn, director of the HWRSD Safe Schools/Healthy Students program, told Reminder Publications Wilbraham Police Investigator Jeffrey Rudinski would headline the presentation. “Jeff has had quite a bit of training in the investigations of Internet issues and he brings that knowledge and expertise in these sessions for parents,” she said. Rudinski, a former HWRSD school resource officer, was recently trained to become part of a statewide initiative, known as the Massachusetts Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. In the presentation Rudinski will provide parents with information on what various social media engines exist, their functions and how they are used. “There really are two aspects of this. First, there are the nuts and bolts of it, like what the technologies these kids are using and how do parents monitor that and know if certain things are becoming problematic?” Kahn said. “That is what we will focus on with this presentation. [Rudinski] is offering the nuts and bolts of understanding social media.” The second aspect of the social media discussion is the social and safety implications of the use of certain technologies, which Kahn said would be discussed in a second presentation later in the spring. Mary McNally from Hampden County District Attorney Mark Mastroianni’s office will also speak as part of the program, offering information on the District Attorney’s Youth Advisory Board and its efforts that have been focused on online safety education. The program, Kahn explained, is in response to feedback from parents in the district who repeatedly identified social media as an area of concern. “Last winter we asked parents through a survey about what some of their concerns were regarding the challenges of raising pre-teens and teenagers,” she said. “The question about social media seems to thread through so many other topics.” Following up on the overwhelming number of questions regarding social media, the district hosted several focus groups in which parents were able to converse regarding their specific issues. “We had more small group and direct and focused conversation on some of the topics brought up by parents in the survey and the general feeling across the three groups we facilitated was that this is a topic that parents feel is of great significance and has an impact on their daily lives as parents,” Kahn said. “We heard from many that they don’t feel as prepared as they felt they should be to help their children manage social media or manage it themselves.” For more information, contact Kahn at 566-5060, ext. 12 or gkahn@hwrsd.org.

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