BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) – School begins next week in many local districts, and so does homework. That can mean more time on the computer. While it can be a good tool for research, it can also be used by online predators.
Visit any classroom, and you’re likely to hear keyboards being typed.
“Technology is definitely incorporated in everything that we do, in our instruction, for their homework. We send them out with websites to look for reports,” said Mandan Public Schools instructor Jo Lynn Newton.
Schoolwork isn’t the only thing that has become largely technology based – so has crime. Especially crimes involving child exploitation. North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation says in 2016 they received 147 cyber tips dealing with child sextortion and child sexual abuse materials. Last year the number rose to just under 1,300.
“It’s a very important topic, not just around the nation but especially here in North Dakota. People and parents have to understand that this stuff is happening here,” said Morton County school resource officer Deputy David Tomlinson.
At home, harmful sites can be one click away, but at school it’s a different story. Most school districts have the ability to block sites on their devices and WIFI.
“They are pretty active about blocking inappropriate sites, but the web is out there and you just have to monitor your students and stay safe,” said Newton.
BCI says parents only talk about computer safety for 43 minutes total throughout a child’s lifetime, and that is not enough. They say open communication is a parent’s biggest tool for protecting their children on the internet.
“I’ve been approached by students asking about certain social media apps, ‘is this safe,’ which is a good thing. We want them, if they don’t know the information, to come to us and help them as best as possible,” said Deputy Tomlinson.
BCI agents also say parents should not shame or punish their children if they end up in a situation online, but instead should contact law enforcement.
BCI agents say just this weekend there were three cyber tips alerting the agency about child sextortion in the state.
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