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ANOTHER VIEWPOINT: Now is a good time to discuss social media actions with children

There is no shortage of anxiety in the world.

The last thing Americans need now is a rumor campaign about threats to schools.

This month, national social media tended to threaten students with violence at school or spread rumors of such dangers. This trend appears to have originated on TikTok as students attempt to skip school on Friday, December 17th. TikTok is a popular social media platform among teens, among other age groups.

The trend escalated to rumors of violence in schools that day. Many posts went viral on social media platforms.

As a result, many schools in Florida, for example, are operating under closure this week, the Associated Press reported Friday. The threats also increased anxiety in schools across the country. Counties in several states closed schools on Friday.

A statement from the US Department of Homeland Security urged schools to exercise caution, but saw no evidence of verifiable threats. “The Department of Homeland Security is aware of public reports indicating potential threats to schools on December 17, 2021,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement posted on Twitter Friday morning. “DHS has no information indicating any specific, credible threats to schools but recommends that communities remain alert.”

CNN reported that TikTok began deleting posts from its platform on Friday afternoon. The platform categorized the posts as misinformation.

As elsewhere, the threats were to schools, teachers, staff, students and parents in the Wabash Valley as well. The Vigo School District Foundation and Paris Union 95 School District were among the districts that advised the public that they were aware of rumored threats and would investigate any such rumor to determine its authenticity.

Local school districts also provided advice to parents and students regarding youth online activities.

It’s hard to enumerate the stresses of 2021 here, but it’s clear that the COVID-19 pandemic, continuing waves of actual gun violence in schools and public spaces, disruptions at work, and political hostility have heightened anxiety. As Americans are exhausted from dealing with such disorders, the recommendations made by schools and mental health counselors should be shared by parents with their children, once again.

Families should discuss healthy social media activity with children, and help them “recognize the ways in which spreading rumors or participating in those trends can cause disruption and panic,” the Center for Security Cooperation advised. It also encouraged families to remind students to report suspicious behavior to a school staff member, or to alert the school district through the StopIt app at VCSC high schools.

In the Paris 95 district, parents and guardians were reminded that the Safe2Help Illinois Helpline allows students to share school safety concerns and offers ways to get help and encouragement. The helpline phone number is 844-472-3345. District 95 also urged families and students to avoid promoting social media rumors and instead report credible threats to the district.

Perhaps the most important recommendation is for families to be aware of who is communicating with their children online. On the basis of this information, rules can be drawn up regarding social networks, instant messaging, emails, online games and the use of webcams.

Those conversations with children can be difficult, as well as setting such boundaries. These steps are essential in 2021. The efforts will make children, their classmates, teachers and school staff safer. We all need less worries, not more.

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