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03-30-04 Parents need to snoop to protect

By Timothy Cox

COLDWATER — Keeping kids safe sometimes means being pushy as a parent, a childhood violence guru told a group of parents Monday.
   Perry Porter, a member of the Columbus Police Department’s SWAT team, talked to a group of about two dozen concerned parents at Coldwater High School. The tough-talking, plainspoken Porter does not mince words when it comes to protecting children.
   Two main actions can go a long way toward keeping kids out of trouble, Porter said. Computers should be moved out of the privacy of bedrooms into a common area in the home, he said. Also, parents must be willing to snoop around to see what their children are up to.
   The Internet is a useful educational tool but also is a “wasteland of Web sites” involving sex, drugs, bomb-making, white supremacy and other unsavory subjects, Porter said. Compounding the problem is the fact that children today are immersed in computer technology while many parents lack those same skills. The discrepancy in expertise can make it easier for kids to keep their activities secret from their parents, he said.
   Today’s parents, many of whom grew up in the 1960s, also are unwilling to infringe on their children’s privacy. That is a mistake, Porter said. Parents not only have a right to search kids’ rooms and belongings, but are obligated to do so. Children essentially have no property ownership rights, Porter said.
   “Legally, kids don’t own any of their stuff. Everything they have was given to them by their parents. You want rights? Make a freakin’ house payment,” Porter said.
   Parents should relentlessly search kids’ rooms, read their notes and dig through their school bags. Some embarrassing items or subject material might be uncovered, but a little embarrassment is worth keeping kids safe, Porter said.
   Safe schools are safe largely because of parental involvement, he said. In cases where violence erupts at school, there usually is a lack of action by the parents. At the Columbine High School shootings, for example, the teen shooters had weapons, bomb-making materials and literature in their rooms but the parents did not know those things were in their homes, Porter said.
   Keeping kids dressed for success also is critical, he said. Girls should not be sent to school showing too much skin and other fashions should raise red flags with concerned parents. Pants with writing on the seat, for example, is not a good fashion choice.
   “Why do you want people to look at your daughter’s butt?” Porter said.
   Parents also must monitor the types of entertainment their children enjoy, Porter said. Movies, music and video games with overt violence should be nixed, he said.
   Drug use and fascination with entertainment violence are the two most common threads linking kids who commit violence in schools, Porter said. Parents also should know who their kids’ heroes are and be wary if rap music stars are considered “cool” by their children. Parents also must watch out for “over the top” behavior in identifying with a new hero.
   To demonstrate his points, Porter showed a number of displays that included modern video games, music lyrics, explosive devices, and movies and TV shows centered around violence.
   The video game — Grand Theft Auto: Vice City for the Sony PlayStation 2, was demonstrated to show parents how game makers are creating a culture of violence that includes killing cops, running down innocent bystanders with vehicles, gun violence and violence toward women.
   But Porter does not favor the government censoring such material.
   “It’s up to you the parent to not let your kid watch this crap,” he said.


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