Shen Community Coalition tackles teen issues

Teens today have a lot of deal withdating, friends, Facebook, sexting, drugs, alcohol, cyberbullying and more. But the Shen Community Coalition is trying to make navigating the teenage world a little easier, for teens and parents alike.

Formed in 2006 to create a community environment that supports health growth and development in youth, the group of parents, school officials and community organizations is hosting a series of presentations at the Shenendehowa High School's Little Theatre. The first is Tuesday, March 2, from 7 to 8 p.m. and will explore technology trends popular with school-age kids. Melissa Ward, Shen graduate and founder of a web development company, will explain how social networking sites, cell phones and other electronics are being used by youth and provide tips for parents to negotiate safe use.

Students think they're very adept and savvy enough with technology to keep themselves safe but we know that they don't. All you have to do is read newspaper articles about kids that get in trouble because they're trapped by adults or doing things with cell phones and Instant Messaging that get them in trouble," said Claire Brown, member of the coalition and associate principal at the high school. "It's clear they [students] don't know as much as they think they know and depending on how tech savvy their parents are, we really believe we have an obligation to share this information."

Brown said the school periodically conducts surveys among parents and students to determine how much they know about particular topics or trends. The results: both parties think they have more information than they really do, making tricky situations more likely to arise.

"We have found that students are more vulnerable than they realize and parents are shocked when difficult things happen to their children. We want to make sure they understand the risks and opportunities technology has and that students are accountable for how their actions," said Brown.

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