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Salem advocacy center educating kids about online safety

<i>KPTV</i><br/>CEO Alison Kelley says the organization spent years conducting focus groups and working with kids
KPTV
KPTV
CEO Alison Kelley says the organization spent years conducting focus groups and working with kids

By Chandler Watkins

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    SALEM Oregon (KPTV) — Keeping our children safe online – that’s the goal for Liberty House, a local children’s advocacy center in Salem, with their program iProtect&Respect.

“iRespect&Protect is a great example of what we did to listen,” said CEO Alison Kelley. “In a strategic planning meeting five years ago, one of our local colleagues, a detective, said based on investigations that he had done he wished there was a way to get the information out to teenagers that if you send a nude photo of yourself, it is out there forever. You will lose control over it and the things that could happen to you can be incredibly overwhelming. So we took that feedback and said wow, that sounds like a prevention program.”

Kelley says the organization spent years conducting focus groups and working with kids, parents, and several agencies to roll out the program.

“It’s a website, iRespectandProtect.com,” said Kelley. “It is designed for kids, educators, parents, and caregivers just to raise awareness about the experience, the reality, of our digital life. Specifically, to make it possible to talk about that dynamic. Kids are so pressured, younger and younger kids are growing up assuming that they have to send that nude photo of themselves in order to get people to like them. We are all human and want to be loved and liked. We may not always be aware that some of the things we do to get liked or loved could actually be harmful to either ourselves or others. It’s possible to become a little more aware and here’s the main point we try to get across: you should never feel like you have to do anything to get somebody to like or love you. Love isn’t supposed to be a transaction. The right people will love you just because you are you.”

Last week, the Salem Police Department announced the arrest of 23-year-old Tyler Justin Hausen on several sex offense charges related to the solicitation of a minor. SPD says during its investigation, detectives learned he was posing as a 16-year-old asking a 13-year-old girl for nude images or sexual favors in exchange for marijuana or liquid nicotine. Detectives also say Hausen was sending sexually explicit images of himself to young girls through social media.

In their press release, SPD stated it works closely with Liberty House and calls the organization “an essential partner in law enforcement’s work to investigate and bring justice to the most vulnerable of our community”. SPD went on to say “We invite the community to learn more about the organization’s iRespect&Protect program intended to help teens and parents work through the sometimes-difficult conversations concerning cell phones and social media.”

Kelley says through talking with kids and teens, they’ve discovered positive messaging and open dialogue are some of the best ways to approach conversations about internet safety.

“Youth told us we want positive messaging and we said ok, that’s what that positive messaging sounds like,” said Kelley. “So on the website, families can find contracts. A lot of parents are asking the question ‘my little kid wants a cell phone, how do I know when it’s the right time?’. That’s a really great question. We encourage parents to go on the website, iRespectandProtect.com and download some of the free resources for everybody and programs for teens. We reached out to teens all over the Willamette Valley this past summer and they gave us some input. They had a lot to say about what their life online is like and what their cell phones mean to them. We really do encourage parents to sit down, try to talk with your child, try to listen. Be the leader and see how you can involve your child in what is a healthy approach and a healthy plan. I think a really good message is that you have more control than you think. There’s more happening out there than we ever realized. We really do encourage parents to sit down, try to talk with your child, try to listen. Be the leader and see how you can involve your child in what is a healthy approach and a healthy plan.”

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