Army Community Service (ACS) is offering a Hidden Dangers of the Digital Age class April 12. The class is geared towards helping parents and professionals recognize the dangers kids face from the internet and smartphone applications.
“There are a lot of dangers that parents aren’t aware of. I tell them, ‘would you leave your child in the middle of Times Square alone? That’s the same thing you are doing when you give them a device,’” said Shadia Young, child advocate, ACS. “You’re just leaving it open for anyone to communicate with your child and kind of poison them in a way, and you’ll have no idea.”
Young created the class to help teach parents and professionals how to communicate on the dangers of the internet in an effective manner.
“Parents don’t realize the responsibility they are placing on the child when they give the child a cell phone … (The device user is) responsible just like they would be behind the wheel of a car,” she said. “That’s a lot of responsibility for a child.”
Young bases the class around using facts to help teach children instead of using scare tactics. She starts by giving the participants a small quiz about applications.
Her goal is to show parents there is more out there than just Facebook and Instagram. Children are using apps that parents don’t know exist to communicate with each other. Predators can find these apps and use them as well, communicating with their kids through what should be innocent channels.
Predators can also look through hashtags to find their prey easily. Teens will often hashtag Instagram posts with the word “teenager.” These hashtags are all searchable, and kids make themselves an easy target with some of the hashtags they use.
Young also discusses the importance of not telling strangers information online while playing video games. Fortnite, a game played exclusively online, is one such platform.
“Kids might mention something like ‘I’m going to Walmart, I’ll be back’ or ‘my dad’s not home right now, he’s in Texas,’” Young said.
Young also discusses what different emojis can mean, both between children and between predators.
Predators online have an emoji code they use to speak to each other about children in the area. Knowing these emojis could be important.
She concludes the class with tips on how to monitor children’s online activity. She also discusses techniques on blocking certain activities from being allowed on internet routers in the home.
“I would hope that parents would take away (from this class) not to be afraid of technology but to be aware of what to look out for,” Young said of her class. “Be into what your children are into so you can be educated on what signs to look for.”
Registration is required for this class. Call (910) 396-5521 or visit www.Bragg.ArmyMWR.com/ProgramsFAP for more information.
The Hidden Dangers of the Digital Age class will be held April 12 from 10 a.m. to noon.