Miller Place hosts presentation on Internet dangers

Miller Place hosts presentation on Internet dangers

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NYPD detective and NY Finest Speakers’ Thomas Grimes, with Miller Place school board President Johanna Testa and Superintendent Marianne Higuera, spoke to parents about the dangers of social media Tuesday. Photo by Alex Petroski

Retired NYPD detective Thomas Grimes made a two-hour presentation to Miller Place school district administrators and parents at the high school on Tuesday night about the dangers of Internet use for children. Grimes’ presentation focused on the aspect of being vulnerable to predators online, but also the peer-to-peer cyber bullying that has resulted in far too many tragic situations.

“Parents, we need to shut up and stop trying to blame somebody else for what our kids are doing to one and other,” Grimes said about the harm that is done on social media between people who aren’t even strangers.

Through his program, NY Finest Speakers, he stressed the fact that cultivating a safe community is a responsibility that we all share.

“What we need to do is take responsibility and delegate that responsibility to our children as well,” he said. “It’s our responsibility as a community, as a family and as a school district.”

Grimes told stories that were horrifying for the roughly 50 parents in attendance about what can happen if a child is interacting with a stranger on a social media site or application. Grimes did a presentation for North Country Road Middle School students on Tuesday, and for Miller Place High School students on Wednesday.

“I told your kids today, if you’re in a conversation with somebody that gives you the creeps, trust your instincts,” Grimes said. “We have to empower our children to trust their instincts. We’re all born with instincts, we just need to learn to trust them.”

Grimes called this generation of middle school and high school students the first “naturalized generation” when it comes to growing up with Internet and social media use. District Superintendent Marianne Higuera expressed a similar sentiment after the presentation.

“As adults, we live in a world of Facebook, and students are so beyond Facebook,” Higuera said. “Fifteen years ago it was ‘Don’t put your child’s name on their jersey.’ Every time your child signs on to social media sites you’re putting their jersey name on these sites, so even if their screenshots show ‘Panthers,’ or ‘Miller Place’ or ‘Long Island,’ they’re susceptible to somebody who wants to do harm to them and can find them. I think that sometimes as adults we don’t understand the technology that our children use so we tend not to face those facts until there’s a problem.”

Grimes made some suggestions to the parents in attendance about ways to ensure that their children are using the Internet safely.

“If you never went in the ocean after you saw ‘Jaws’ for the first time, I give you permission to go home and throw out your computer,” Grimes joked, but he stressed to parents that the technology is not the problem, but rather the kids behavior in using the technology that needs to be monitored or modified.

Grimes suggested that parents sit down with their kids and look at all of the social media platforms and apps for which they have a profile. Any “friend” or “follower” that the child cannot identify should be deleted. He also suggested that parents encourage their kids to make their social media profiles something that they can be proud of and use as an asset, rather than something that is hidden from adults.

Additionally, Grimes suggested that if parents are concerned that their kids might have applications or programs on their mobile devices that the parents aren’t aware of, they should bring the device to the service provider and ask them to reveal everything that is on the phone.

For more information or to book a presentation, Grimes and his company, NY Finest Speakers, can be contacted at nyfinestspeakers.com.