Specialist explains importance of coming forward following online threats

School Threats How well do you know...

EL PASO, Texas - How well do you know your kids? Would they let you know if they saw another child posting inappropriate or threatening content online? 

After the mass shooting at a Florida high school, it's a conversation happening around the country.

Photos on the alleged shooter's Instagram page showed him posing with guns and knives. An Instagram group chat message reveals additional threats about wanting to kill people. 

Albert Villa, the project manager for Behavior and Mental Health at Region 19, said parents need to foster a message of open communication and trust, so their children feel comfortable about coming forward if they see something online. 

"It may not necessarily be something that they're involved with or they're sharing," Villa said. "It may be something that they're seeing or happen to run across on social media that they'd be willing to share that with their parents." 

Villa said children are growing up in a digital world, and parents have to understand that. 

"We need to make an effort to know what that world is," Villa said. "To be able to keep their children safe in that environment, they need to learn about it." 

Villa suggests parents monitor their child's social media accounts. He also said limiting screen time can help establish opportunities for more communication. 

"Even something as simple as at dinner time, putting everything away, all phones get turned off or put in a certain area," Villa said. "So there are opportunities for communication." 

Since Wednesday's shooting, school districts across El Paso have been receiving various online threats. 

Socorro Independent School District Police Chief Jose Castorena said it's important for students to come forward if they see something on social media. 

"Nine times out of ten because kids don't want to get in trouble at home, they may not share the information. They don't want to lose the opportunity of having that technology," Castorena said. "I just encourage them to continue to tell their kids that we are here to help." 

Castorena also explained the seriousness of children posting threats online. 

"We don't take any threat lightly," Castorena said. "We look into each and every one of them. They don't understand just because you have the ability to post something on social media that there isn't consequences." 

Castorena said anyone who makes a social media threat could face charges. 

"It could be as low as a Class B misdemeanor  all the way up to a felony depending on  the information and who the target is," Castorena said. 

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