Eighth-grade essay contest aimed at preventing cyber bullying

I am no longer surprised to see 5- and 6-year-olds with their own personal cell phones. I am no longer shocked that my own daughter, at the tender age of 6, knows how to navigate the PBS Kids website on her own or order a movie through Netflix.

I am, however, appalled at some of the stories about cyber bullying coming out of the national news these days. It’s become a huge, huge deal. Yesterday, as a matter of fact, the White House hosted a conference on cyber bullying prevention.

In Montana, we are turning to the kids themselves for ideas on how to stop cyber bullies. The Montana Police Protective Association and the Montana Department of Justice are sponsoring an essay contest for eight graders, while the goal being to solicit solutions to the cyber bullying problem.

Here are the details, via the Montana Attorney General’s Office:

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Meet the cops who keep our kids safe from online predators

Missoula police Detectives Chris Shermer and Guy Baker and Missoula County sheriff’s Detective T.J. McDermott, from right, are the linchpins of the Missoula Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Shermer works full time busting Internet predators, while Baker and McDermott are part time on the task force. Photo by MICHAEL GALLACHER/Missoulian

Missoula police Detectives Chris Shermer and Guy Baker and Missoula County sheriff’s Detective T.J. McDermott, from right, are the linchpins of the Missoula Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Shermer works full time busting Internet predators, while Baker and McDermott are part time on the task force. Photo by MICHAEL GALLACHER/ Missoulian

Wow! Check out the excellent story by Gwen Florio in today’s Missoulian about the Missoula Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Not only do these policemen nab would-be child predators by posing as potential victims online, they also give presentations at local schools on how our community can help keep kids safe.

Back in September, the Missoulian published an editorial lauding these law enforcement officers and encouraging parents “to be constantly tapped into the virtual world in which their kids are participating, so that when something sketchy happens, they will be there to notice it – and help the officers with the Internet Crimes Against Children program put a stop to it.”

To arrange a presentation for your school or group, call Missoula Police Detective Chris Shermer at 552-6300.

– MM

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One more thing to worry about: getting arrested

Increasingly desperate to go floating, but less anxious to be apart from my little one for so many hours on a weekend, I’ve been thinking lately about when my daughter might be ready to go inner-tubing down the Blackfoot with us.

At 4, I think she’s still much too young. While we often talk about general water safety (thanks to the “Josh the Baby Otter” CD we listen to every morning in the car), and even though she’s going to start preschool swimming classes later this month, I want Willow to be a strong swimmer long before we take her tubing.

On the other hand, I’ve spoken with at least one set of parents who bought one of those nylon “seats” for their child’s tube, strapped a life vest on their kiddos and floated on down the river before one of their children was even walking.

Then, this morning, Missoula Mom got this note from one of our favorite followers:

“Just curious if you ladies saw this story in the latest Brain, Child about a MSU prof who let her twelve year old take her other kids and some friends to the mall, and ended up getting arrested for child endangerment?

“Lots of interesting questions here about when are kids old enough to babysit, town and gown tensions, etc.”

Interesting questions indeed. The story, as related by mom Bridget Kevane, takes place in Bozeman and details the circumstances under which she dropped off her 12-year-old daughter and her daughter’s 12-year-old friend, both of whom were experienced babysitters, and whom she left in charge of an 8-year-old, a 7-year-old and a 3-year-old. The older girls left the younger children unattended for a moment, and wham! Kevane was charged by Bozeman police with child endangerment.

I find her defense of her decision particularly fascinating, as she spends some words describing her exhaustion, the reasons for it and the resulting need to “take a break.” Haven’t we all been there?

“For feeling constantly torn between so many daily demands, trying to make it all work, but knowing that I sometimes fall short, I am guilty,” Kevane writes. “But of knowingly putting my children in harm’s way by letting them go to the mall alone? Not guilty.”

Could something like this happen in Missoula? Could I go floating down the river with my daughter and find myself arrested for risking her welfare? I admit that in all my worries about what might happen if we took her along, the possibility of a run-in with police and child services never came up. That is, until now.

– Missoula Mom

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