Berkeley County school leaders encourage parents to learn apps, monitor social media to keep children safe

Berkeley County News

BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – The Berkeley County School District is working to educate parents about social media and app use as schools across the country deal with an increase in threats made online.

The district last week investigated threats that circulated on social media regarding Berkeley High School, and while they were unfounded, it does cause moments of concern and panic among parents.

Cheretha Kinlaw-Hickman, an officer with the Security and Emergency Management Office for the Berkeley County School District, said parents need to be communicating with their children when it comes to what’s happening online and on their phones.

Her office deals with safety issues and concerns within the district.

“They need to have an open dialogue. A lot of parents don’t know a lot about social media, and this is the era our children have been raised in, this is all that they know,” she said. “Parents will have to get on board and research and sit down with their children and talk about these different apps.”

Apps the district said they’ve seen the most problems with are TikTok and Facebook. “These are the main ones that we’ve been seeing a lot of issues within the school setting.”

“Some of these apps are really great apps, but because what they are being used for is in a negative manner, it’s affecting a whole lot of people,” she said.

When a threat is discovered, district officials work to find out where it initiated from, and then contact law enforcement. Kinlaw-Hickman said because it’s often transmitted through so many different individuals, they have to contact the social media platforms to get the information.

“By the time we normally get it, sometimes it’s not actually from students at our school, it’s actually something that someone took and added on to,” she said.

Many parents, she feels, are worried about causing a trust issue with their children. “Some parents think if I snoop, if I ask too many questions, then I’m going to cross the barrier. But what parents don’t realize is it’s important for them to snoop,” she said.

Kinlaw-Hickman said it’s important for parents to have that open dialogue. “When you have that open dialogue with your child and explain to them that there are safety risks, and that is the reason why they are being concerned as parents. Not that they don’t want them to communicate with their friends, or to enjoy the internet.”

She believes parents need to step up and start researching and investigating apps, “so they can know what these are about and talk to their children and let them know ‘I love you, but this is what I need to do to protect you,’” she said.

“Children really want to be seen,” said Kinlaw-Hickman. “When they post something, they get likes, and a lot of times when they post these things, it’s not about trying to hurt somebody, they are upset. Kids don’t really know how to deal with their emotions.”

She said parents need to ask questions, even if they don’t know what is going on with the apps. “There are so many adults out there that can assist them with that,” she said. “They don’t necessarily have to rely on their children but getting that relationship with their children and actually sitting down with them and talking about the apps and let them explain what the app is and what they are doing on these apps. That would make a big difference.”

The Berkeley County School District will host a series of presentations aimed at teaching parents about social media use, how some apps work, and what apps can serve as a vault for hidden messages and information. Details about these events will be released by the district later.

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