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Parents, middle schoolers invited to cyber safety meeting Monday in Willmar

WILLMAR -- Parents and their middle school-aged children are invited to attend a cyber safety meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the Willmar Middle School gym.

County Attorney Jenna Fischer and Willmar Police Officer Bridget Coit will present information on safe use of cell phones and social media by teenagers and give parents ways they can help protect their teens from inappropriate, dangerous or illegal behavior.

"Kids use and abuse their cell phones and Facebook accounts," Fischer says. Parents allowing their children unrestricted access and use of phones and social media "is akin to giving a kid a gun without safety training," she said.

Parents can be intimidated by the new and ever-evolving technology, while their pre-teen and teen children have grown up with it, Fischer says. That divide may leave parents not knowing what they can do about online bullying or harassing or sexually inappropriate text messages.

The presentation will provide parents with ways they can monitor, and strive to protect, their children, Fischer says. Those monitoring efforts can include having teens turn over their Facebook passwords and cell phones so that messages can be checked by the parents.

Fischer wants parents to be encouraged and empowered to take action and set and enforce cell phone and Internet usage rules for their tween and teen children. "Our kids know so much more than us parents," she said. "Parents may be shying away from this aspect of parenting."

Fischer and Coit have already presented, and will continue to present, similar information to students in health classes at Willmar High School. Their high school presentation is age-appropriate and includes discussions of criminal sexual conduct and pornography laws and discussion about the legal consequences of having a boyfriend or girlfriend who is more than 24 months older or younger or under the age of 16.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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