Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

September 25, 2013

Parental monitoring: Lessons can be learned from scare

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — A recent social media scare at PikeView High School underscores the importance of parents monitoring what their children do and say online.

Troopers with the West Virginia State Police Princeton Detachment and deputies with the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department were stationed at the high school, as well as at PikeView Middle School, both Monday and Tuesday after a post on a social media website was interpreted as a threat against the school.

According to Sgt. Jose Centeno, of the West Virginia State Police Princeton Detachment, the incident began as a simple misunderstanding. But once it was posted on social media it reached a “panic state.”

Centeno said a high school student misunderstood a classroom discussion on current events. But when that discussion was posted on two social media sites, it prompted widespread concern and was interpreted by many as a threat of a school shooting.

As a precaution, the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department searched PikeView Middle School and troopers with the West Virginia State Police searched the high school. No weapons were found.

But the scare had already went viral. More than 300 middle school students were absent from school on Monday, and 40 percent of the student body at the high school also was absent out of fear of a threatened school shooting.

Law enforcement officials, including Centeno and Mercer County Sheriff Don Meadows, are to be applauded for their response to the incident. Their proactive actions showed that law enforcement officers in our region are prepared and ready to respond to such threats.

But parents must play a role as well. All concerned parents should pay close attention to what their children are doing online. Once you post something, it is instant — and there for the entire community, nation and world to see. If you post or say something inappropriate, or make a comment that can be perceived as a threat, it is there for everyone to see in the blink of an eye — including law enforcement officers.

All concerned parents should make sure their children — whether elementary, middle or high school aged — understands what is appropriate and not appropriate when it comes to posting comments and photographs online. One wrong comment can quickly spiral out of control.

Like it or not, social media is here to stay. That’s why all parents should educate themselves regarding the do’s and don’ts and, in return, educate their children.