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Cyber-safety in a digital world

posted: Thu, Apr 20th, 2017

Andrew W. Donofrio, a computer consultant and former computer forensics examiner for Bergen County, recently spent a day at MOMS presenting information to students and parents about cyber safety. During the school day he delivered three presentations to groups of students, including the entire fifth grade from all four elementary schools.

Mr. Donofrio cautioned students about revealing too much personal information on social media to remain safe from online predators. In addition to telling real-life tales of the dangers of the internet, he mentioned several safeguards that should be taken. He stressed the management of privacy settings on various apps, disabling GPS tagging, not using the “check in” feature available on some apps which transmits user location, and exercising discretion in the posting and sharing of photos.

Mr. Donofrio also advised the students on how they can avoid being a part of cyberbullying by not posting inappropriate photos or comments, and by not making a bad situation worse by adding a comment or sharing something negative that has already been posted.

Colleges and companies are looking at the digital footprints of candidates, he said, so maintaining an appropriate digital identity is essential.

The evening presentation to parents reviewed some of the social media apps that are now popular among pre-teens and teens such as Snapchat and Instagram. The anonymity of the internet, Mr. Donofrio explained, has made bullying more prevalent in the absence of face-to-face contact. A computer forensic examiner, however, can uncover where messages originated which often times leads to the creator of the message. He described a case he worked on in which a high-achieving high school student on a full college scholarship lost it all after it was revealed she sent an inappropriate “anonymous” message to a teacher. 

Mr. Donofrio underscored the importance of monitoring the internet usage of their children and enabling parental controls. Home computers should be in common areas in the home such as a den or living room and not in children’s bedrooms, he recommended. He also explained that there is software available that can monitor internet usage more closely if parents suspect inappropriate computer usage.

"Some of the parents that attended called the program 'eye-opening' and 'practical' according to feedback that has been shared with school counselors," said Megan Troup, student assistance counselor at MOMS. "This was information every student and every parent could benefit from." 

The presentations were sponsored by a partnership of the school district, the Mount Olive Township Police, and the Mount Olive Municipal Alliance Committee, a community organization dedicated to maintaining the health and safety of township residents.

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