O’FALLON – District 90 began their Winter Speaker Series on January 30th with a talk by two men that both want the best for district students. Detective Carl Walker presented about making sure students are being safe online, and how to handle cyberbullying and texting issues. Alvin Dotson spoke to parents about the Ticket to Success program and all that it has to offer to give students a hand up in their life journey.
Detective Walker pulled no punches when talking to parents about cyber safety, showing them real conversations from confiscated devices. One such conversation included messages bullying a young teen about her weight and encouraging her to kill herself, going so far as to suggest that even her parents wouldn’t miss her. Another conversation included sharing nude photos of a young girl, and even acknowledged that the teens knew sharing the photos was wrong and something that had been discussed with them at school.
“You would think it’s the high school kids that get my attention, but it’s not, it’s the middle school kids,” said Walker.
Cyberbullying has made sure that bullying is now 24/7, lasts forever, provides anonymity for bullies and allows for a wider audience, often going hand in hand with sexting. “Back in my day, if I wanted to bully someone, I had to go find them. Bullying has become an automated process. A lot of it starts with rumors and then blows them out of proportion, often involving the mob mentality,” Walker said. He mentioned that parents can also be part of the problem in the judgments they make on other parents and children, and that their children can pick up on that.
He gave suggestions for parents to help other parents that may be overwhelmed for any number of reasons, such as having, calling them “ineffective but not bad parents,” and reminding people that they are often times one catastrophic event away from becoming overwhelmed parents themselves. Walker also outlined the legal rights of parents and children, since most kids feel that their phones are private and will not allow their parents to check them. He pushed that these conversations with children are important, and that parents must have them or deal with the fallout when something bad happens.
Walker gave a handout to attendees that gave suggested tools for how to protect children. “Set rules for device use. Children must know what is expected of them before you can hold them to a standard. Know the technology. You must learn it for yourself, what it does and how to use it. If they’re on a form of social media, create an account and keep a presence. Equip your child with the same device that you have so that you only have to learn one type of technology. Know what apps they have and what they do. Research the apps, and make them seek your approval before downloading them. Install cell phone monitoring software like the Phone Sheriff app,” suggested Walker.
He specifically discussed certain apps that are more dangerous when it comes to cyber crimes and have become targets for sexual predators, such as SnapChat, Musically, Kik and even said that Minecraft’s chat function is dangerous.
Walker shared a list of suggested cell phone rules, that include not using the phone as a replacement for face to face time, turning it off at bedtime and storing it in an agreed upon location, always responding to parents’ phone calls and texts, and not taking nude pictures of themselves or anyone else- ever.
The O’Fallon Police Department is equipped to deal with cyber crimes, a specialty of Walker’s as he holds a Masters of Science and Technology in Certified Information Security Management. While technology can be scary, he encouraged parents to get a handle on it and do their best to keep their children safe.
Alvin Dotson also wants the best for O’Fallon youth, presenting the idea of bringing the Ticket to Success program back to Amelia V. Carriel Junior High. The program is operational at Moye Elementary School and at O’Fallon Township High School.
Ticket to Success is a program that strives to re-energize leadership opportunities for youth. Dotson mentioned that presenters for the program have included the president of Fiat Automobiles, who spoke to students about the designs for automobiles and how they are developed, the sports manager for former NFL players Donovan McNabb and Cris Carter, and even members from NASA.
The program would have no cost to students, and would aim to find things that interest the students in the program and try to spark intensity for their interests. The program also utilizes a series of 13 books about leadership and holds discussion panels with students to help further their understanding of leadership and further reciprocity.
Dotson is meeting with parents to determine interest and participation levels and hopes that Ticket to Success will begin holding monthly meetings and activities this spring semester, but really be ready thrive by the beginning of the Fall 2017 school year.
The program started as a way to help African American young men find good role models and gain leadership skills but Dotson spoke of the diversity in O’Fallon, saying “My son looked at his friends, and it was like the UN, a very diverse group, and we wanted to bring them along for these opportunities and give them the same exposure to leadership potential, so we opened the program up,” Dotson said. Girls and boys of all races are eligible to join a their specific age level at the selected schools.
“We’ve given them the opportunity to fly cessnas in Highland, played stock games and given them the opportunity to learn about the market, have race car drivers talk to them,” said Dotson. Many of the speakers and events donate their time and resources to the students, all in the name of encouraging young leadership. Dotson did add that parents of participating children would be expected to be involved with the program in possible fundraising and supportive roles.
The second session of the Winter Speaker Series is Sunday February 27 at 6:30 p.m. at Carriel. Topics include financial responsibility and gun safety education. Question and answer sessions will follow the presentations.