CENTENARY — The Gallia Prosecutor’s Office, Gallipolis City Schools, Gallia Citizens for Prevention and Recovery as well as nextTalk, an organization with a mission of focusing on internet safety education, are partnering together for an event in the Gallia Academy High School gymnasium, Oct. 8 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., to discuss keeping families safe in an ever digitally connected world.
The event is free and open to the public. Gallia CPR’s Hidden in Plain Sight program is anticipated to also hold a demonstration and exhibit centered around a faux teenager’s bedroom. Families will be allowed to explore the bedroom in an attempt to identify drug paraphernalia, hiding places and signs of potential abuse.
“I know a state official who works in crimes with children and he shared with me two recent cases that have not been adjudicated yet that are horrific,” said Gallia Prosecutor Jason Holdren. “The first case he showed me is of an adult male individual who (reportedly) reached out to a number of girls, teenage minors, and tried to befriend them on (social media) and built a rapport with them. He quickly began receiving nude photos, videos from them. One child being the daughter of a police officer. The other case is in a town about the size of Gallipolis where a sex offender was reaching out to young girls on (social media) and convinced this minor that he wanted to take her to a party. She comes out of the house to go with him and is gone for a number of days. He arranges multiple encounters with men.”
Holdren said that as families continue to grow in a digital world, it’s important for caretakers to understand what the proper uses of internet technology are and the hazards they pose to youth.
“This isn’t just dangerous. We’re talking about losing our kids and strangers coming into our homes via these devices and convincing our kids that they are somebody they’re really not,” said Holdren. “That’s one danger of the digital world. The other things we’re seeing is constant bullying. When you and I were in school, we might have had a bully we might see once a day. Kids can’t get away from it (cyberbulling) now. We see it in our office. It leads to depression, eating disorders, cutting, suicide, drug abuse. It leads to so many things.”
Holdren said he hoped that anyone who considers themselves a caretaker of youth can see value in the event.
Mandy Majors, nextTalk founder, addressed visitors through a video conference in August after being invited to a stakeholder meeting at the Gallia Courthouse and told them a key moment in her becoming concerned about youth internet safety was when her daughter discovered questionable adult material in social media while searching for photos of dresses. She praised her daughter for bringing it to her attention and instead of deciding to completely forbid use of social media, Majors encouraged education and appropriate use of it with parental oversight.
“I had an opportunity to reward her and build her up and empower her for being honest with me,” said Majors. “I’m not going to go crazy mom mode…My child did nothing wrong. She just clicked on an innocent hashtag (that revealed unexpected content)…Avoid crazy parent mode. We have to remain calm.”
Majors is anticipated to lead the night’s presentation.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342.