FWCS, RemedyLIVE warn parents on dangers of apps

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Crista Miller talks to a crowd at Fort Wayne Community Schools’ Family and Community Engagement Center as part of RemedyLIVE’s Dangerous Mobile Apps presentation.

Fort Wayne Community Schools and RemedyLIVE partnered to teach parents about the mobile apps their children might be using in dangerous ways.

FWCS recently hosted RemedyLIVE’s Get Schooled Tour presentation in its high schools, FWCS Public Information Officer Krista Stockman said.

When the school found out about some of the other resources offered by the organization they were interested in the “Dangerous Mobile Apps” presentation, RemedyLIVE Co-founder and Executive Director Clinton Faupel said.

Faupel spoke to parents about several apps and pointed out possible dangers – from being able to send or receive lewd images, to chatting and meeting with strangers, to cyberbullying.

FBI Special Agent Jeffrey Robertson and Fort Wayne Police Department Detective Chris McCarty, who were also part of the presentation, pointed out that many of these apps are not inherently dangerous, but rather are not being used in a safe way.

Robertson and McCarty explained how they had created a MeetMe profile as a 13-year-old girl, and within a week had been contacted by 25 people, some of whom sent “vulgar things.”

“It is horrible,” McCarty said.

Robertson and McCarty shared with parents how metadata in cell phone pictures can contain location information that can make the sender easier to find. They also warned families against putting too much on Facebook and Twitter, such as letting people know where they live or when they are away from the house.

“There are many people…that say this is the largest generation gap in the history of the human race,” Faupel said. “Mom and dad don’t know how to even log in to some of these devices that we’re talking about. … Because of the viciousness of these predators and how resilient they are and the agenda they have to literally destroy these kids’ lives, whether it’s through cyberposts or whether it’s through physical violence, we just have to do something.

“Fort Wayne is unique in that we’re right on highway 69. Chicago, Detroit, New York – we’re focused on as a cross-section for all these things to happen.”

The presentation started with a video of Crista Miller, who shared her story of how her family has been affected by the dangerous use of mobile apps.

“The reason why I do this is because I thought I was smart about the internet and apps and I thought I knew everything that was going on, on my kid’s phone, and then to discover there was a whole world that was hidden from me that I didn’t know about, I said to myself, parents need to know this. … I had to tell parents the truth and what could be happening to their children,” Miller said after the presentation

McCarty and Robinson encouraged parents to know the passwords on their children’s devices and to check the devices for concerning behavior. They also advised to know who their children’s friends are online and know what the apps on their phones do. They warned that there are apps designed to disguise other apps.

Faupel also offered parents a contract outlining these suggestions for children to sign before they receive devices.

The presentation urged parents to talk to their children about what they’re experiencing online and to watch for behavior changes that might indicate a problem.

“The most important thing is that parents went home and talked to their children,” Stockman said. “You can be on top of all these things, but you really need to build that trust so if something happens and they make a mistake and get involved in something they feel they can go to their parents and ask for help.”

“Grace goes a long way with kids,” Miller said. “We need to humble ourselves as parents and understand that not all of this is our fault and there is a point where we can rectify situations and let our children know that they are safe with us and…we are the ones they need to come to when they’re in trouble and not to be scared if something’s happening on the internet that they can’t control or they feel is out of control.”

Stockman said FWCS is hoping to put on a version of the presentation for students as well.

“We’re wanting to get this message across to kids too,” she said. “They need to understand this is not just a joke, that there are some real serious consequences if they get involved with people (they) don’t know.”