- This event has passed.
Parent forum with Lakeville police officers — McGuire Middle School
April 17 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
An adults-only community forum featuring Lakeville police officers will concentrate on serious teen issues affecting the community.
Lakeville School Resource officers Thor Howe and Andy Hentges will frankly discuss bullying, desensitization to violence and sex, chemical issues, and current laws from 6-8 p.m. April 17 in the McGuire Middle School cafeteria.
Howe said they plan to invite audience questions and promise to “give very unfiltered, direct answers.”
“Let’s not beat around the bush,” Howe said. “Let’s talk real. Let’s have no kids be there and let’s just talk about things we’re dealing with.”
Howe said school resource officers routinely encounter issues related to social media, including sexting, plans for self-harm, cyberbullying and illegal drug sales.
“The primary way of communicating for kids now is digital,” Howe said.
The idea for the event came after McGuire PTO co-chairs Amy Willingham and Ryan Riemer met with Police Chief Jeff Long, Howe and Hentges to share their concerns about what teenagers now face and learn more about what parents need to know.
“The big thing is how kids are using phones and the internet,” Willingham said. “They thought that was the biggest thing, what kids are doing with that stuff that parents don’t understand.”
According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, about 34 percent of middle and high school students ages 12-17 in the U.S. surveyed in 2016 said they have been cyberbullied at some point in their lifetime.
Forms of cyberbullying include mean or hurtful comments, physical threats, posting mean names or comments about a victim with a sexual meaning or making posts online posing as their victim.
Howe said the music, movies and video culture children are regularly exposed to desensitizes them to violence and “anything of an explicit nature.”
“These kids see it at such an early age and they become very desensitized to it, so like the thought of sending an explicit nude photo of yourself doesn’t seem like as big of a deal,” Howe said.
Willingham said the event is not a response to any particular situation at any District 194 school but is being held to provide parents resources and information.
“Probably the parents who are going to show up, I’m guessing, are the involved parents that want to know what kids are doing and want to help their kids navigate through this stuff, too,” Willingham said.
She said she believes parents and schools “really struggle” with giving children phones and internet access.
Once children have online access, Willingham said, parents have a hard time monitoring what their children are exposed to online.
“It feels so impossible to keep on top of and monitoring what your kids are doing because kids are one step ahead of you,” Willingham said.
Willingham said youths often do not realize what they do online can become permanent.
“That, to me, is the scariest part of it,” Willingham said.
Howe advised parents to have strict parental controls in place on their children’s electronic devices to avoid unfiltered access to the internet.
He said many parents keep their children’s cellphones in the parent’s room overnight to charge and allow their kids some time away from the devices to do homework and sleep.
“I think parents need to have complete, complete access to all their kids’ phones, emails, texts, social media, everything so they can at any time pick up their kids’ phone and look through it,” Howe said.
He also suggested parents purchase parental control software to monitor their children’s social media activity.
“Parents absolutely need to be very involved with their son or daughter’s digital footprint,” Howe said. “Parents have far more power in this area than the police do and they have way more control. They can easily help us with this ongoing issues.”
He said parents who attend the forum will learn more about what SROs do in the schools, and adults can share and band together in learning about challenges and correcting them.
“It’s a very cool community effort for us to get together, because we’re all trying to raise these kids the right way and we want nothing more than to avoid trauma and mistakes,” Howe said. “They’re young kids and they need to be guided in the appropriate fashion.”
There are plans to continue holding forums at each District 194 middle school next year with topics that most concern parents.
District 194 Communications Director Amy Olson called the forum “a great opportunity for our parents to equip themselves with knowledge that can help them keep their students safe.”
“We appreciate the ongoing partnership with the Lakeville Police Department and the McGuire Middle School Parent Teacher Organization for arranging this forum,” she said.