#cyberbullying | #cyberbully | Seminar aims to keep kids safe on internet, social media

NEW HARTFORD — As part of their new Community Engagement Lecture Series, the American Martial Arts Institute on Seneca Turnpike hosted a seminar on keeping children safe on the internet Tuesday, Jan. 21.

New Hartford Police Officer Annemarie Brelinsky spoke to about a dozen parents and guardians about the basics of child engagement on the internet and what steps the parents could take to keep their children safe.

“Knowing what draws children to the internet is the first step to understanding,” Brelinsky stated.

The officer pointed out that children use the internet for a number of reasons, from listening to music, chatting with their friends and doing schoolwork. Among the most popular uses of the internet, she said children like to engage in virtual worlds — like Club Penguin and Whyville — or play multiplayer videos games like Fortnite and Minecraft.

These worlds and games often involve chatting either via text or voice, which is open to potential predators, the officer warned. The anonymity of these places also allow the children to possibly act out without fear of reprisal.

“The internet creates a shield for them where they feel like they can say whatever they want, regardless of how other people might feel,” the officer stated.

“It’s up to us to make children use the internet safely and wisely.”

Brelinsky also warned parents about the popularity of YouTube, where children can watch a wide variety of videos, while also filming and uploading their own videos.

A child can film themselves in their home and upload the video to YouTube from their cell phone, and she noted that the content might be clean, but the video might capture personal information from the home in the background.

Brelinsky advised parents to look up their own children’s names on the Google search engine to see what and where they might be posting.

Cyberbullying is a problem that Brelinsky warned about, especially on social media websites like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. She advised the parents to familiarize themselves with these social media sites and applications to better understand what their children are doing.

She also said that cyberbullying is sometimes better handled through the schools as the “best place to start” rather than calling law enforcement. Though the officer did note that it is an “every day occurrence” at the New Hartford Police Department to get a complaint about cyberbullying, and often it is between adults.

In order to protect children while they use the internet, Brelinsky suggested such steps as keeping the family computer and video game consoles in the family room in a home, rather than hidden away in the children’s bedroom.

She suggested setting time limits for computer and video game use, as well as learning both your children’s online friends and their account passwords.

This was the first lecture in a new series being put on by the American Martial Arts Institute.

“We try to do a lot of things for the community, especially with children,” said Eric Stalloch, headmaster of the training hall.

“Technology changes so quickly that we thought it was important for parents, grandparents and community members to have a better sense of the risks that are age-specific.”

The lecture series will take place on the third Tuesday of every month this year. The lectures are free, but do require registration through www.AMAI-EagleSTyle.com.

Future lectures will include talks on tax regulations, heart health matters, pet care, home security and more. A full calendar of lectures can be found at www.secureliving.org.

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