Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: lauriegood@mac.com

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Parents warned about dangerous "chain" text messages

Anyone who knows me knows that I embrace new technologies and enjoy sharing the benefits of these advances. I'm not one of those moms who "doesn't get" text messaging or calls those social networking sites "Space Book" or "My Face." I've incorporated cell phones, texting, IMing, email, blogging, Twitter, Facebook, and more into my daily life. HOWEVER, the benefits of 21st century technology come with a new set of challenges and even dangers, making it harder than ever to keep our kids safe.

Following is an email which was sent to parents this week by Tony Orsini, principal of Ben Franklin Middle School:

It seems that there are some disturbing text messages circulating among some of our 6th grade students. One in particular is a lengthy text that seems to have originated outside of the Ridgewood area, but is essentially a chain letter, threatening students to forward the message to 10 friends or bad things will happen to them.

The content of this text was not simply disturbing, it put young adolescents in a position to deal with a chain letter threat when they may not have the means to intellectualize the contents of the email and the threat accompanying the chain text.

Please communicate with your son or daughter in regard to any text they receive. Teach them not to accept a text from anyone who they do not know, and give them a safe person to talk to in order to report anything disturbing.

In addition, regularly check your child's text messaging and facebook use, just as you would check if they did their homework or brushed their teeth before bed. If something feels wrong, please don't hesitate reporting it to the authorities, or if it involves the school, report it to the school.

Finally, considering the things that have occurred recently in Glen Rock, and the fact that sexting exists throughout every community, please consider advocating for cell phones with no camera capability, or at the very least parental controls that do not allow any pictures onto a phone. Although texting may be something that has become universal, the potential negatives of pictures traveling by phone are astronomical (parents may consider the word astronomical as hyperbole, but the numerous severe abuses and inappropriateness of pictures forwarded through cell phones really is astronomical).

Thanks for being vigilant and helping to guide your children through the new world in which we live.

Tony Orsini
Benjamin Franklin Middle School

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