Friday February 8, 2013

LENOX -- In order to alert parents to the potential dangers of predators and other Internet hazards, the town’s school district is planning an "adults only" session featuring Robert Kinzer, the county’s second assistant district attorney.

The meeting, "Lenox Online ... What Every Parent Needs to Know," is part of a continuing series and although Kinzer’s appearance was requested, it was not scheduled in response to specific incidents or a single event, said schools Superintendent Edward W. Costa III. Previous sessions have been focused on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.

"We know that every day, if not every hour, more smartphone apps, and more online games and sites are created and they’re getting tricky," Costa declared. "A youngster may be online doing something and some sites look innocent at the beginning, but all of a sudden, a text box will pop up, part of the program but not disclosed. The kids don’t know who they’re talking to, and that scares me to death."

"Internet safety is a major hazard," Kinzer agreed, "and not a lot of parents have as much experience and knowledge as they should, or as their kids have."

All Lenox parents, as well as those from surrounding towns, are invited, Costa said. The session will be on Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 6:30 p.m. in the Duffin Theater at Lenox Memorial Middle and High School, 197 East St.

"We’ll talk about what parents need to be watching to use the Internet safely," said Kinzer, who singled out the necessity of guidance on how to navigate Facebook as well as other social network and Internet sites, including chat sessions, in order to avoid possible danger.

He cited the numerous new apps developed for smartphones, iPods and iPads "that give kids a lot more connections to other people, and we need to really make parents aware of the dangers of putting such powerful tools in the hands of users."

Kinzer noted that the school district meetings are required by the state’s anti-bullying law signed in 2010 that includes periodic training sessions for students, staff and parents.

"The hazards usually don’t involve strangers, since students are more likely to be teased by kids they know," he said.

Sites like Facebook, with more than 1 billion users worldwide, have dropped "turbo-charged mechanisms" into kids’ laps, according to Kinzer. He pointed out that the session for parents will explain "ghost pages" -- tech-savvy youngsters set up a second Facebook account "behind their parents’ backs, their real one under a different screen name, and parents don’t really know about that one."

"Maybe they get lucky and find it, but it’s important for parents to have a discussion with kids in a responsible way," Kinzer said.

A followup session on Internet issues to be presented by a state police officer will be scheduled in March, said Costa.

"The technology is moving too fast, and the strength of technology is also its worst enemy," he asserted.

To contact Clarence Fanto:
cfanto@yahoo.com
or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto

If you go ...

What: "Lenox Online ... What Every Parent Needs to Know."

When: Thursday, Feb. 13, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Lenox Memorial Middle and High School, 197 East St.

Guest speaker: Second Assistant District Attorney Robert Kinzer of the Berkshire County DA’s office.

Extra attraction: The session also will provide information from the school’s Guidance Department about online college applications through Naviance, the new application and portfolio software now accessible to all parents.