The dangers of virtual reality became a real life reality last week during an assembly for students at Owen D. Young Central School (ODY), hosted by New York State Trooper Ralph Potasiewicz.
The dangers of email, instant messaging, blogging and cell phone use and the ramifications that each can have on a student was the focus of the assembly.
Seventh through twelfth grade students were treated to an assembly courtesy of New York State Troopers. The assembly focused on Internet and Cell Phone Safety. Pictured is NYS Trooper Ralph Potasiewicz addressing the students, with ODY Assistant Principal Keara Battisti standing to the right. (Photo by Bruce Watson)
Potasiewicz told the students that Internet sites such as myspace.com and facebook.com are areas on the Internet where registered pedophiles and sex offenders often wait for teens. They create profile pages with incorrect information about their ages and interests, and then strike up conversations with the teens. They build up the victim’s trust and confidence over a period of time, and ultimately set up a meeting to have inappropriate relations with the teens.
Potasiewicz went on to warn the students that more and more employers and college admissions’ committees are checking students’ facebook and myspace pages where teens have been known to post inappropriate photos of themselves and post information about drugs, drinking and traffic violations in which they have been involved.
“Once you post your image online, it’ll be there forever,” warned Potasiewicz.
“It made me realize that I shouldn’t ‘friend’ anyone on those Internet sites unless I know them personally,” said eighth grader Michayla Mower. “I don’t have a home computer, but if I did I would be very careful about what I posted.”
Students were shown video clips and listened to actual dialogue that demonstrated how cell phones, cell phone cameras, and email could all be used to harass, bully and send inappropriate material.
“It was an interesting assembly and the interview with the pedophile was disturbing,” said ninth grader Wasayla Mower.
Parents can periodically check what is on the Internet that pertains to their teenagers by entering their son or daughter’s name on a search engine like Google (www.google.com) or Yahoo (www.yahoo.com).
Sometimes parents have little or no knowledge of what their teens do online and are amazed by the suggestive photos and messages that are posted by their children on their webpages.