The Belton Journal

The informational session on the social and emotional impacts of technology use, misuse, and potential legal implications was provided by speakers from the Texas Step Up Organization.

Guest speakers Tony Jimenez, BA, and Deyanira Duffy, MA, LMSW, encouraged questions from the parents while they talked about promoting safe social media use and Positive Parent-Child Conversations.

Jimenez focused on today’s digital age, and how social media targets the lives of children and teenagers.

As parents, it is crucial to understand the best practices for safe social media use and to engage in positive conversations with children about their online activities, Jimenez said. By fostering an open and supportive dialogue, parents can help their children navigate the complexities of the digital world while ensuring their safety.

According to Jimenez, the average U.S. teen spends 6-9 hours per day watching TV, scrolling on their phone, listening to music, and more.

“That’s a fact. That is more than 40 percent of their day,” Jimenez said.

Duffy shared a story about her 12 year-old daughter being an unknown victim of sexting.

“I work in this field of advocating for safe social media use, and I couldn’t stop this,” Duffy said.

The seminar continued with an exchange of information and discussion on the topic of safe social media use.

Some parents admitted that they didn’t know as much about keeping their kids safe as they thought. Both speakers encouraged parents to stay informed about the latest social media trends and challenges faced by young users. Engaging in ongoing conversations about online safety, cyberbullying, and digital literacy can help parents address emerging issues proactively and empower their children to make informed decisions online.

Ultimately, promoting safe social media use and fostering positive parent-child conversations are vital for navigating the ever-evolving digital landscape.

Step up Texas teaches how families can work together to create a healthy and secure online environment for children. Initiating these discussions early and maintaining an ongoing dialogue can strengthen trust, build resilience, and equip children with the necessary tools to thrive in the digital world.

Initiating a conversation with children about their social media usage can sometimes be challenging. However, approaching the topic positively and without judgment can facilitate a more productive dialogue. Parents can begin by expressing interest in their children’s online activities and asking open-ended questions to encourage communication.

Belton Police Officer Dewayne Ravizee and SRO for Belton High School talked about the legalities and consequences involved with cellphone sexting.

“It is a problem in high school, in middle school, and now we are seeing some of it in elementary school,” Ravizee said.

He said it starts out with an image being sent by a boyfriend or girlfriend. When they separate, it becomes a problem because the image is shared with other friends.

Depending on the difference in ages, consequences can be as simple as a Class C Misdemeanor.

However when it escalates into something more serious it can be the difference of not getting a job, or not getting accepted into a college, Ravizee said.

Additionally, what started as a single texting photo, can end-up as a felony, or under the right circumstances, it can turn in child pornography. Besides the legal consequences, what started out as an uninformed or bad decision, also turns into many physical and emotional problems for the victim of sexting.

Candice Griffin, BISD Communications Specialist, concluded the seminar by saying, “we see things we want you to know about so you can be ready, be vigilant, and be the best parent you can be. That’s why we put these topics on for our parents,” Griffin said.  “We are here and ready to do our best, especially on a topic as important as social media trends and how students are still making decisions that aren’t based on factual knowledge.

Additionally, she praised the BISD Parents as Partners program as a tool for educating parents.