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School district wants to inform about dangers of social networking

School district wants to inform about dangers of social networking

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LEXINGTON — Social networking, a new term for online personal sites like MySpace and Facebook, is unfamiliar to most people, but Lexington school Superintendent Brent McArdle is committed to educating parents, students and teachers to its dangers.

McArdle learned about social networking Web sites through a news article and was concerned students may be putting themselves at risk.

“We take student privacy issues very seriously, and we are very careful about releasing student information,” said McArdle. “Unfortunately, many times students are too willing to share too much information on Web sites (such as myspace.com, youtube.com, xanga.com, or webtickle.com) with no thought that someone might use it inappropriately.“

In response, the school district, in conjunction with the Lexington Council of Churches, will sponsor a presentation at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday featuring Jack Bristow, former DARE officer for Livingston County. Bristow serves as the liaison for Pontiac High School and gave a social networking presentation at a recent meeting of the Illinois Principals Association.

The presentation on Wednesday will be held in the Lexington High School gym for parents and students in sixth grade through high school. McArdle said Bristow’s previous presentations allowed students to view postings from social networking Web sites to show just how much personal information is out there.

“They selected a young woman who was attending (Illinois State University),” said McArdle. “Her posting had so much information, like her hobbies and class schedule, that if anyone wanted to stalk her, she’d have no clue. These sites take the work out of stalking.“

McArdle realized the presentation may affect Wednesday evening church services, so he sought support from the Council of Churches.

Ray Owens, pastor of the First United Methodist Church and council member, is grateful the district is addressing the problem.

“Even though we live in a small community, the Internet opens a portal to the entire globe, potentially exposing our children to the good, the bad and the ugly realities of life,” said Owens. “Parents must be aware of these dangers and engage in the lives of their children to protect them as much as possible.”

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