Peters Township parents learn pros and cons of social media

Published Feb 11, 2013 at 10:13 am (Updated Feb 11, 2013 at 10:13 am)

Nearly 50 Peters Township parents attended a workshop Feb. 6 to obtain a better understanding of Facebook, Twitter and other social network sites that their elementary and middle school children may now or will soon be using.

A team of student leaders from Peters Township High School created a slide show, as well as a hands-on workshop using the school district’s iPads in an effort to educate parents on the pros and cons of social media.

“To inform, educate and teach is the intent of social media, but sometimes it is misused,” said sophomore class officer Nate Doughty.

Doughty said McMurray Elementary Principal Blair Stoehr asked the 21-member Peters Township High School Student Leadership Team – made up of class officers and student council members – to develop a program that would help keep children safe when using social media sites. Doughty said he along with Harrison Nix, Garrett Warmbien and Vincenzo Giovannitti worked together on the presentation, meeting a couple times a week, with each person concentrating on one aspect of social media. Doughty researched Facebook; Nix, Twitter; Warmbein, Instagram; and Giovannitti, devices used for social media. Matt Hilzendeger and Greg Oleynik also helped during the workshop.

With Facebook, teens often have 500 online friends, but those so-called friends may resort to cyber bullying. “It is very easy to attack a person through Facebook,” Doughty said. “Having access to your child’s account is the best thing to do. I could not have a Facebook account unless I was friends with my mom.”

He also said parents should monitor what their child posts and who they are sharing information and block any person who might be causing a problem. “Your child wants to be friends with everyone, including the person harassing them.”

Twitter, which consists of short messages of 140 characters or less, is popular among students since they can receive timely updates from school organizations and sports.

Again, cyber bullying is the biggest problem. “A person can say whatever he wants and there are no filters,” Nix said. As with Facebook, parents need to have access to their child’s Twitter account and monitor posts.

Instagram, an app to take and share photos, also has the potential to be abused through cyber bullying and even giving away personal information through GPS coordinates on the photo. Parents must be vigilant in accessing the account.

In the workshop session, the high school students gave a more detailed explanation on making information private and blocking people.

Safeguarding his children and learning more about Facebook was the main reason Ron McGooghan attended. His three children are not permitted to use social media. “I am trying to learn before my kids,” he said. While he sees the benefits of Facebook as an advertising tool and for photo galleries, he still had plenty of questions about Facebook’s purpose for his children.

Parents seemed pleased with the program, clapping after the presentation and even one parent telling Doughty the program was awesome.

“We are glad parents have questions for us,” said Doughty, who added the same presentation will be given to teachers in April.

“The challenges that we face as parents of children in this technologically advanced age are many,” said Stoehr. “The emergence of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube have allowed people to communicate with more speed and ease than ever before. This includes our children. In their rush to grow up, our children are communicating more and more via social media.”

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