CARLSBAD— Nearly 200 parents attended a Facebook safety seminar Thursday evening, hosted by Pat Bates, the California Senator from District 36, the Carlsbad Unified School District and the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort and Spa.
The event was held in response to a safety threat that was posted to Instagram in early January.
Carlsbad High School was closed for a day and a half because a 15-year-old girl posted a picture stating she was going to “shoot up” the school.
“Sadly social media has become the latest vehicle of choice for delivering those threats. Nine out of every 10 threats made on school campuses are a hoax. No school in America wants to experience the real one,” Senator Bates said.
The girl was arrested but because she is a minor, the punitive measures have not been made available.
Carlsbad Unified Superintendent Dr. Suzette Lovely said the school and law enforcement were able to respond quickly to the threat and learned the identity of the anonymous Instagram user through GPS tracking.
Lovely said an officer spoke to students after the incident to caution about the serious ramifications of posting threatening content to social media.
The most severe punishment the school district can administer is expulsion, and in some cases, can ask for financial restitution.
The seminar was held to educate parents on monitoring their children’s online activity and to deter other possible hoaxes.
It’s the responsibility of both the schools and the parents to educate children on Internet use, Lovely told the crowd.
“As parents, I would say we are responsible for all of our children’s behavior until they turn 18. We are responsible for monitoring what they do online,” Lovely said.
Juan Salazar, associate manager of state policy at Facebook, gave tips on monitoring teen’s use.
Children younger than 13 years old are not allowed to sign up for Facebook or Instagram, so Salazar said, it’s important to discuss digital citizenship before that age.
“Having that conversation early really sets them up for understanding what they’re going to use social media for,” Salazar said.
He advised parents to teach their children that what is said online should be reflective of who they are offline and parents should help them understand possible ramifications of their online activity.
He advised helping young teens set up accounts and discussing who they’ll interact with online.
“That conversation is about building trust with them. You want to communicate with them where they feel like they trust you and are willing to share this information with you,” Salazar said.
He said it’s helpful for parents to join the sites, if they haven’t already, to keep tabs on their kids.
Tiffany Herndon, a teacher at Fusion Academy in Solana Beach wasn’t impressed with the advice.
She said she’s seen kids set up fake accounts to show their parents and then make a duplicate account with a similar name so they can use Facebook without parental monitoring.
This is against Facebook policy and Salazar said users should flag fake or imposter accounts so staff can take them down.
Herndon also said students will leave their phone at a location so the GPS on their phone shows they are where they’re supposed to be.
“Really for parents, none of this, no putting GPS on your kid’s phone, no blocking things, no requiring them to give their passwords is going to take the place of solid parenting and open communication,” Herndon said.
Lovely told the crowd that often times parents hear about things before school staff and urged parents to always call district officials if they become aware of a threat or suicidal post.
In the January incident, a student alerted a parent of the Instagram threat and that parent called the district.
The school was put on lockdown before break to give law enforcement the opportunity to interview students and learn the identity of the poster.