Several dozen people attend Prince George's County Public Schools' town hall on social media at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt on Nov. 10. /Photo by William J. Ford
Several dozen people attend Prince George's County Public Schools' town hall on social media at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt on Nov. 10. /Photo by William J. Ford

Prince George’s County Public Schools hosted a town hall on Thursday, Nov. 10 in Greenbelt to educate parents about living in a digital age and the possible pitfalls of social media.

About four dozen people in attendance at Eleanor Roosevelt High School received tips for both parents and children to navigate the online world, including monitoring daily cellphone usage and not posting photos and other information on social media that they wouldn’t share with friends and family.

“Social media is great when used correctly, but used inappropriately you just wonder, ‘why they ever create this stuff?’” said Reginald Corbitt Sr., CEO of SafeCyber, which helps consult schools, community organizations and public and private agencies on social media and online safety. “That’s why monitoring is key. You want to know what’s going on with your child’s online life.”

Some advice listed in the “Net Cetera” booklet from the Federal Trade Commission on communicating with children about being online /Courtesy of FTC

Before Corbitt spoke about the negative impact of social media, Stephen Decatur Middle School Principal William Blake told the audience how has informed parents their children had access to certain websites and apps without their parents’ knowledge.

Tammy McBride-Loftin of Accokeek said she limits her daughter’s cellphone and computer time during the week, cutting her off at 8 p.m.

“Unless it’s for homework, I shut it down,” she said. “I think you have to put those measures in place because [children] are not mature enough to make those decisions on their own.”

County schools received online threats last month that resulted in the arrest of a Parkdale High School student who police said set up a Twitter account with a clown theme while in class. Police charged the student with threat of mass violence and other related charges.

Police also arrested an eighth-grader at Kenmoor Middle School in Landover for making similar online threats that caused increased security at various schools. In addition, a Bladensburg High School student was disciplined by school officials for an alleged bomb threat. Neither threat was credible, authorities said.

During Thursday night’s town hall, attendees received various social media tips and insight that included aspects of cyberbullying: it spreads faster with a wider audience that can occur and follow children online 24/7.

Each received a “Net Cetera” pamphlet from the Federal Trade Commission on how children can communicate in the digital age.

There are still some parents such as Bernita Wilson of Greenbelt who won’t allow her 14-year-old son to own a cellphone.

“I’m pressured more and more and more to get a cellphone, but I have an issue,” said Wilson, who moved from Augusta, Georgia, last year. “It is because of the cyberbullying. I don’t trust what’s out there. I know it is modern-day times, [but] I’m not ready.”

For more information, go to ftc.gov/NetCetera.

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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