Back to School: Safety tips and resources

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 7, 2022

By Rowan County District Attorney Brandy L. Cook

As the summer comes to a close and children are getting ready to return to school, I am providing important safety tips and resources for parents on a few topics. Parents should be proactive when it comes to protecting their children in our community.  

I believe it is vital to stay involved in your child’s life. What activities are they involved in? Who are their friends? How much time are they spending on their computer or smart phone? What are they able to access on their computer or smart phone?

Internet and digital images: Technology has advanced in the past decade where most parents and children alike have cellphones capable of accessing the internet and taking photographs. Popular sites for children to communicate with others include Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Tik Tok, Kik Messenger, WhatsApp, Discord and Tumbler. Teens often try out new apps that parents may not be aware of.

Parents should speak with their children about the dangers of taking sexual photos and/or sharing them with others. Once a photograph is shared with others, it can be posted on websites or even altered. Internet predators are sophisticated and prey on our children. Be proactive in monitoring your child’s text messages, emails, photographs, internet and cellphone activity.  

For information on how to protect your family from inappropriate websites, including parental controls to minimize a child’s access to certain websites, go to www.opendns.com/home-internet-security

Cyberbullying: Bullying can quickly spiral out of control and negatively affect a child emotionally, physically and mentally. What should you do if you believe your child is being bullied on the internet or at school? Contact the school administration and law enforcement immediately. Visit www.netsmartz.org for online safety tools for educators, parents and children. For additional resources on this topic, go to www.stopbullying.gov and dpi.nc.gov/districts-schools/district-operations/center-safer-schools/bullying-prevention.

Sex offenders: It is important for families to know where a registered sex offender is living in their community. Fortunately, this information is easily accessible. Resources available to parents include:

  1. The North Carolina Sex Offender Registry: http://sexoffender.ncsbi.gov.  
  2. Parents can sign up to receive e-mail alerts when a sex offender registers at an address near your residence or at your child’s school at http://signup.ncsbi.gov
  3. Parents can receive telephone alert notifications by calling 1-877-627-2826 or going to www.ncsavan.org
  4. A sex offender registry app is available for users of Apple and Android at http://sexoffender.ncsbi.gov/mobile.aspx.

Additional resources:

For concerns involving cellphones, cyberbullying, chat rooms, computer stalking, file sharing, gaming, Internet safety, webcams, predators, social networking and sexting, go to www.netsmartz.org or https://ncdoj.gov/internet-safety/protect-kids-on-the-internet.

SPK UP NC is a school safety program for students that enables them to send anonymous tips about school safety concerns from an app they can download on their phone, iPad, Mac book, or other mobile and web based technology: https://staysafespeakup.app.

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