Online risks focus of presentations

Education and awareness presentation on social media at Clarence Fulton Thursday and again at the Schubert Centre Friday

Parents, educators and professionals wondering what is really happening with kids online can find out at a couple of presentations this week.

An education and awareness presentation on social media gets underway at Clarence Fulton Thursday at 7 p.m., and again at the Schubert Centre Friday at 9 a.m. (check-in is at 8:30).

Jesse Miller, an international public speaker, will be delivering awareness-based education about those most vulnerable and to those who hope to facilitate change in a proactive manner.

The session will go over social media trends, technologies and current concerns within B.C.

Risky behaviour is the main concern for Vernon School District substance abuse counsellor Doug Rogers.

“Risky behaviour takes place in many avenues and in many ways including the internet,” said Rogers, who routinely deals with inappropriate videos, words, threats and photos being used more widely via text messages and social media forums such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and more.

One example: “People are purchasing and dealing drugs online.”

The advent of social media, and the many downward spirals it can take youth down, is something Rogers encourages parents to learn about. Particularly in the ever-changing and growing world of social media.

“It’s something we really need to keep up with and we are a little behind the eight ball,” said Rogers.

RCMP const. Kathy Szoboticsanec has seen a lot of presentations, but is particularly impressed with Miller’s.

“He simplifies it,” said Szoboticsanec.

As an example, she says Miller explains how a picture, or series of pictures or dialogue can capture a broad audience online, often without knowing.

“This is what your parents, your teachers, your grandparents are seeing,” said Szoboticsanec, of some of the things kids will post online not realizing who is watching, whether it be family or strangers.

Szoboticsanec routinely deals with kids in Grade 6 and 7, trying to curb risky behavior before the downward spiral starts.

A lot of that involves social media, which is why she urges youth and parents to come out to listen to Miller.

“Have a better understanding of what’s out there, what’s happening and what kids are doing.”

There is also a mental health component, specifically to do with suicide, which is why the Canadian Mental Health Association and Mental Illness Family Support Centre Society are supporting the event along with the RCMP, Vernon School District and Vernon Teachers Association.