The following letter from Superintendent Barbara Canavan was sent home today with students in Harford County Public Schools and posted on the school system’s Web site:
September 19, 2013
With the start of the school year, we wanted to reach out to parents to provide some information and tips with respect to cybersafety, more specifically social media. For the past two years as a school community, we have been working to make students and parents aware of the dangers that social media sites present in an effort to keep our children safe. Community presentations and a cybersafety webpage have been developed and are housed on the school system website to provide easily-accessible information for parents and students.
Today, we were made aware that two private schools in Maryland, including the John Carroll School in Bel Air, discovered that several of their students had been inappropriately contacted at home via social media sites by a sexual predator. The contacts were made via Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine. The person, as reported by the John Carroll School, calls himself J.P. Smith, Brian Pond, JPL42, and MatLax. The incident was originally reported by St. Paul’s School for Girls. Several girls reported the problem to the administration of that school. Police have been contacted, and an investigation is currently underway.
While we have had no reports from our students as being affected by this incident at this time, this serves as a reminder that it is imperative we discuss with our children, now and often, the importance of being cautious while interacting on social media sites. Unfortunately, this issue is becoming more commonplace for our youth.
It is our goal to provide you with the tools and information you need to assist you in keeping your children safe while on the Internet. Social media sites, such as the ones identified above, are blocked via an internet filter from school system computers. However, we know that many students access these sites outside of the school day on a daily basis by other means. We want to partner with you to keep our kids safe.
Please talk with your child about cybersafety and monitor any social media sites they may be using. Even if you do not suspect your child as being actively engaged in social media, it is worth the effort to search for their name on several of these sites to be sure. The following messages can be used to help guide you through the conversations.
Helpful Talking Points:
– If you have been contacted via social media by the person mentioned above or anyone of a suspicious nature, you should tell an adult that you trust immediately.
– You should only “friend” people that you know and trust. (Parents are strongly encouraged to “friend” or “follow” their children on social media sites.)
– Monitor your privacy settings, as they can change with upgrades to the technology. Always keep your accounts private.
– Do not give out personal information, such as name, age, and location.
– Photos that are posted can often time give clues about personal information. Be cautious of the photos that you post.
More information and helpful videos can be found on the cybersafety webpage at www.hcps.org/cybersafety.
Together, we can help keep our children safe while accessing the world of social media. Thank you for your partnership and support.
Barbara P. Canavan