Those pictures, often without clothing, are being placed into shared social media accounts and distributed among other students, and in some cases, the students who shared the picture are not aware of their image being shared more broadly.
The Durango Police Department is presently conducting an active investigation into this concern, and their initial findings have indicated that this behavior is more widespread than originally thought, reaching into all secondary schools in our area. Through the investigation, it has been determined that students are freely sharing their social media account credentials so that other students can post for them when they are unable to do so. By providing such access, the students with whom they are sharing their accounts are able to gain access to photos and other materials within that account. Not only does this present some additional opportunities for inappropriate shares and use of social media and related legal implications, but these are some signs of serious technology addictions in some of our children.
While this issue continues to be investigated, parents are being contacted if their child is found to have been involved in this string of behavior. I encourage parents to review their child’s phone as there is no guarantee that every student will be identified. It is incumbent upon parents to be aware of their child’s use of technology to prevent their children from falling victim to poor choices that are difficult to undo. Sadly, when something gets posted to social media, the web, or to the cloud, there is no such thing as deleting such a post or picture and those pictures could resurface on the internet, further exposing students. There are many options to put parental controls on your child’s phone, and we highly encourage you to contact your cell phone provider to identify some of the best options, as well as regularly checking your child’s phone and apps to ensure the technology is being used appropriately.
In regards to student behaviors, we’ve also seen an uptick in students use of alcohol, vape pens, and other illegal substances at school. We know the impact of parents sharing and enforcing sound judgment and the impact of inappropriate decisions with their children, and we want to emphasize the importance of engaging our children in conversations about the dangers of such behavior. As a father of five, I too have learned and grappled with the challenges of parenting children in today’s society and in a world of technology.
It is important that we encourage students to be cautious of anything being shared at school, this may even include snacks and drinks that on the surface seem harmless. Sadly, we’ve had some instances where students have unknowingly shared or consumed illegal substances due to peer pressure and the need to belong. Any such sharing of a substance that proves harmful does result in the child facing discipline based on distribution of such a substance, even when they aren’t aware. Students must use caution to protect themselves and their peers.
While I recognize that this letter is hard to read, I do hope as you and your family enter the holiday break that you find time to have conversations with your child about the following:
- Don’t share anything via text, social media, or through other electronic means - anything that you’d prefer not to be seen by the general public or your parents. A good rule of thumb is don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want to see in a newspaper. Review parent control options and screen time options to keep up on your child’s online activity.
- If given a snack, a substance, or a drink at school that is not clearly identifiable as something store-bought and unopened, simply say “no thank you!” Most importantly, never pass on anything they receive at school to others as the negative consequences may be significant.
- If your child is aware of students sharing items that may prove to be harmful, remember that anonymous reports can be made to Safe2Tell.org, Safe2Tell Mobile App, or by calling 877-542-7233.
It is important that our students know that this is not a time to be a bystander, but to stand up and help prevent friends from making serious errors in judgement that could impact their future.
Please visit our Safety page and select "Resources" for some information that may be helpful to you as you engage in these important conversations with your child. Additional resources can also be found on the Digital Futures Initiative website here. Of course, it is never too early to engage your elementary student in learning these difficult lessons. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s school counselor should you have questions on how to address such topics in a developmentally appropriate manner with younger children.
Finally, I want to invite parents to attend a showing of the documentary – Screenagers. A free showing is scheduled on Wednesday, January 8, at Miller Middle School beginning at 7:00 pm in the auditorium. Bring your student and take advantage of the opportunity to participate in this community conversation about the impact of technology on our students and how we as parents can positively support our children.