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Massena Central aiming to educate students on digital awareness as parent-kid tech gap widens


MASSENA -- A new program in the Massena Central School District aims to teach kids to watch their online behavior and raise awareness of human trafficking.

Students on March 23 had an entire day devoted to the topics, Amanda Mittiga, a high school English teacher, told the Board of Education at their April 16 meeting.

Presenters included Jonel Beauvais, a cultural community outreach worker from the Seven Dancers Coalition, and Mona Romeo, Francine Thompson, Chad Sherman, Racine Johnson and Sky Gould from the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Social Services Division. Beauvais is also a human trafficking survivor.

The students also heard from Sabel Bong, who grew up in a refugee camp in southeast Asia, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agent Jeremy Cragnolian, state police Inv. Dewayne Baillargeon, and a half dozen other local organizations and agencies.

Mittiga showed the board a slideshow titled “What my parents don’t know about social media,” which featured anonymous comments made by students.

They said things like “Anyone can pretend to be someone else with fake accounts,” “That you can easily meet someone who seems nice but can change your whole life” and “People I don’t even know can follow me.”

One pointed out that although parents may use some social media, they are on totally different platforms than their kids. One students commented that with regard to their social media use, their parents know “Literally nothing...except Facebook...which I don’t use.”

Mittiga said she herself had a close call with her daughter and an app called that according to media reports from around the country has been infiltrated by sexual predators.

“It’s a predator-infested app,” she said, adding that she only learned about it when her daughter asked permission to install it and later heard about the dangers from other teachers.

Her presentation included a list of apps teens are using that parents may not know about. One of them is called “Calculator%.” Its icon that shows on a phone or tablet looks like a calculator as well, but it functions as a secret photo vault, according to the presentation. Other apps mentioned included Omegle (anonymous chat), Yellow (similar to Tinder), Whisper (anonymous place to share secrets), (anonymous Q&A), Hot or Not (rating users with the goal of hooking up), Burn Book (anonymous rumor posting), Wishbone (kids compare themselves to each other and rate on a scale), Kik (messaging) and Instagram (photo sharing and messaging).

School officials say they plan to add more digital awareness into school curriculum.


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