When it came to knowing what’s safe and what isn’t online, Dawn Sheneman felt out of the loop.
“Just when I finally think I learned what’s popular,” Sheneman said. “Here’s another one that’s come out that I wasn’t even aware of.”
Sheneman decided to take an internet safety course, learning what to look out for and what conversations to have with her 13-year-old foster daughter.
“You don’t see the face, it’s just a voice, it’s just a message,” Sheneman said. “You have no idea what age the person is that you’re dealing with.”
The online course is offered by KIDS Center in Bend, in partnership with Pacific Power.
Adults and students learn how to stay safe on ever-changing and very public platforms.
“What we wanted to give our community members was the ability to feel safe while still engaging online,” Rachel Visser, KIDS Center prevention education manager said. “What does it mean to have a private profile? What does it mean to turn off your location? And what can people see if your locations are not turned off?”
Bend Police Sgt. Eric Hagan has seen the dangers of social media firsthand.
Hagan says it’s especially difficult to know who is really on the other side of the screen.
“Is it truly another teen?” Hagan said. “Or is it an adult who is a predator?”
Hagan believes parent-child communication is key to online safety.
“It doesn’t take me long to figure out that my kids are smarter than me on a lot of these digital formats,” Hagan said. “So trying to stay up to date, and ask them the questions, well how does that work? What is this and who are you talking to? Asking the kids those questions I think is important.”
The KIDS Center course also emphasizes being mindful of privacy and location settings.
“If they’re on a specific spot that has WiFi and they upload a picture, it can get geotagged,” Visser said. “That is a very very easy way for people to find where you’re at without you even knowing.”
It could all mean the difference between harmless online activity and your child’s safety.
“There’s things that people think are private and they’re not,” Sheneman said.
KIDS Center will be holding community-wide SafetyNet courses on June 10th and 21st, you can register here.