Teens learn about the technological world around them in bytes and pieces.
Some are taught wisely by their parents about the etiquette and good judgment required to use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, among others. A smaller group of teens may just bumble into a new messaging system and, with the innocence and spontaneity of youth, make a disastrous posting online.
Outsiders don't know exactly what led to a 13-year-old's misguided message in which he allegedly threatened to kill fellow students at Pendleton Heights Middle School. The student, who was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of intimidation, told authorities that he posted the threat as a game. His message only referred to "PHMS," an acronym that could serve numerous schools across the country.
Thankfully, South Madison Community Schools officials took the message as a serious threat. They contacted Pendleton police and Madison County sheriff deputies to provide a stronger security presence. And, led by Superintendent Joe Buck, the school notified parents through its own messaging system.
The student was arrested by the end of the day.
Buck praised the school and law enforcement officials for their diligence in handling the matter. Everyone should do the same. In this world of instant messaging, perceived threats must be taken seriously and acted upon quickly — whether the message is part of a "game" or not.
The Pendleton incident should remind parents to monitor their child's activities, whether online or real life. Youth, too, must be alert for signs of troubled friends; if a threat is eminent, notify parents or authorities.
Pendleton school officials, however, must also be commended for planning a talk on cyber security. The presentation is free and set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 30, at Pendleton Heights High School.
There will be discussions about keeping children safe when using the Internet, explanations of cyber-bullying and talks on new social media trends. Parents should make every effort to attend.
Teens aren't the only ones learning about new trends in social media. And they're not the only ones tempted to abuse online programs.
But being alert to the possibilities for misuse, as South Madison schools seem to be, is a trend that should help that community feel better.
In summary South Madison schools responded quickly to a perceived threat, and is making an effort to prevent cyber abuse.