St. Mary’s Elementary School combats cyberbullying with parent participation

Schools of St. Mary's students and parents now have access to SafeStudents Online. (Photo courtesy of St. Mary's Elementary School Office of Communications)

A Manhasset school is one of six New York institutions partnering with SafeStudents Online to help parents keep their children safe from threats commonly found on social media, such as cyberbullying, inappropriate content and online predators.

St. Mary’s Elementary School in Manhasset will offer the platform for parents for students in fifth through eighth grade to monitor their child’s social media activity without invading their privacy.

SafeStudents Online Vice President Tim Polizzi said he has sons in elementary school and a daughter in high school and understands the concerns of parents raising children with technology.

“Getting parents engaged with their kids is what will make a difference, and for that to happen, we’re trying to have conversations and learning moments between the kids and the parents,” Polizzi said.

Polizzi said instead of a parent asking for a child’s social media passwords, the SafeStudents Online platform monitors the social media accounts and warns parents if a student is swearing, bullying, posting suicidal messages or more through an email or text message notification.

The parents are the only ones informed, Polizzi said, and are able to take the information to the school if necessary.

“It’s an important tool to offer for parents because many times they do not understand or have a full awareness of how their children are using social media,” Sarah de Venoge, principal of St. Mary’s Elementary School, said. “The tool allows them to be alerted of any content that is considered harmful in any way, including bullying, which can open the door to important conversations between parents and their children. Such conversations are incredibly valuable for the well-being of our students and go a very long way in ensuring that children come to school ready to learn, instead of feeling damaged and distracted by social media.”

The other schools participating are St. Dominic Elementary School in Oyster Bay, Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens, Monsignor Scanlan High School in the Bronx, Fontbonne Hall Academy in Brooklyn and St. Joseph High School in Brooklyn.

According to SafeSearch Online, independent research shows that one in six middle and high school students who use social media have been contacted by a stranger in a way that made them uncomfortable; one in four have had an online problem spill over into face-to-face confrontation; one in three have received unwanted sexual attention online; and nine of 10 have witnessed mean or cruel behavior online.

“Parents want to be responsible, but many have no idea how to keep up with their kids online,” Polizzi said. “SafeStudents Online partners with schools to give parents a tool to passively monitor their children’s public and private social media activity without having to spy on their children.”


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