by Zoe Kaplan
When discussing the Internet and children, facts don’t fall far from shocking. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 15 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 17 have had a person contact them over the Internet with content that was sexual in nature. In addition, 35 percent saw nudity or other sexual material, with only 27 percent informing their parents or guardians. This doesn’t just affect older children, as nearly 50 percent of children in kindergarten or first grade report talking with people through websites. Of this 50 percent, only half have parents that watch their online activity. As the Internet becomes more accessible to individuals of all ages, Internet safety has been a wide issue around the world – even in Sleepy Hollow.
Recently, the Sleepy Hollow Police Department came across local issues of Internet safety with a middle school student. The student was using a mobile app, “Trivia Crack.” Trivia Crack is a game similar to Trivial Pursuit. Players can use the app to compete against friends and random individuals around the world. In this case, the student started playing against an unknown individual, and began to have conversations with the person through the app’s messaging system. Soon, this individual, behind a made-up screen name, sent messages with inappropriate content. After the parents were informed by their child, the parents and student then informed the school principals and the School Resource Officer. Additionally, authorities were made aware of the situation and have begun an investigation.
A student’s act to inform parents is not a common one. However, a recent assembly students attended at Sleepy Hollow Middle School motivated them to tell their parents what had occurred. The assembly focused on the topic of Internet safety. During the assembly, the presenters brought up past examples of pre-teenagers who had traumatic experiences because of irresponsible behavior while using the Internet. Tess Kaplan, an eighth grader who attended the assembly, said, “The assembly helped us learn about the real possible dangers out there. I think a lot of us are now going to rethink about how we use the Internet.”
Sleepy Hollow Police Chief Gregory Camp urged parents to “realize the potential dangers associated with access to…sites that their children may be using to electronically converse with their friends and peers.” Receiving inappropriate texts are no longer the only issue; numerous apps today contain messaging systems that allow random individuals to speak with children who may be using them. The Sleepy Hollow Police Department encourages parents or guardians who are aware of or simply concerned that their child/children are receiving inappropriate messages to contact the department for assistance.