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GIPS parents, staff learn about online safety, dangers of vaping

Society has evolved and continues to change, especially with increased technology. Technology is good for many reasons, but it also brings up other issues parents and community members should be aware of. Grand Island Senior High hosted a presentation about Juuls and online safety Tuesday in the auditorium.

Officer Wes Tjaden, who is assigned to GISH, spoke about the new trends in vaping. Juul, which is a type of vaping device, is common and very discreet. The Juul looks like a long jump drive, and can be charged with a USB. The device, Tjaden said, doesn’t produce a lot of vapor, so parents and staff might not recognize a student is vaping.

Officer Wes Tjaden

“Every single school in Grand Island, middle school and high schools, have had problems with Juuling,” Tjaden said.

Tjaden said the devices use juice, which come in multiple flavors and contain high amount of nicotine. He said kids use vapes because they think it’s better for them than cigarettes, when in reality, it’s worse. Tjaden said one vape can contain about 20 to 40 cigarettes’ worth of nicotine. So, if a student is smoking one vape a day, that’s equivalent to one or two packs of cigarettes per day.

Example of a Juul device

Grand Island city ordinance prohibits anyone under 18 to possess any vaping device or juice, but the state law isn’t as strict. Board of Education member Lisa Albers spoke about the work she’s doing with Senator Dan Quick to change that at the state level.

“We have the students’ best interests at heart,” Albers said.

Lisa Albers

Tjaden said the fruity flavorings of the juice are highly marketed toward kids. The tobacco taste may not appeal to kids, but a watermelon flavor might. Tjaden said a dangerous part about vaping and Juuls is that many kids aren’t aware what they’re doing. He said he’s talked to students who honestly didn’t know what they were smoking contained nicotine. The vapors can also contain toxic metals, such as lead.

Youth are now stuffing vapes with other drugs, such as marijuana, methamphetamine and other opioids.

Tjaden said a kid could be vaping right in front of an adult, but the adult may not know it. Because the device doesn’t produce a lot of vapor or scent, kids often exhale into the collar of their sweatshirt.

“One of the most dangerous things about Juuls is how easy they are to conceal,” Tjaden said.
Karen Haase, a Lincoln lawyer who specializes in school law and social media, talked about online safety, social media and sexting. Haase also presented earlier in the day to students.

“Technology is a mixed blessing, and there are good points and bad points to it,” Haase said.

Citing multiple studies and articles, Haase said that since the iPhone was released in 2007, teen pregnancy, DUI’s and alcohol consumption has decreased among teens. However, depression and anxiety have increased.

Social media has something to do with that, especially Instagram, Haase pointed out. She said every parent should have an Instagram account so they can see what their kids are doing.

Haase talked about the pressures, especially on middle school girls, to look like a model.

“When you were in middle school, how insecure were you about your looks?” she asked the audience.

She said with social media, everyone posts the best things about themselves. Teens see that, and feel insecure and compare themselves to others. They heavily edit their photos and find the best angles to take a selfie, just so they can look more “refined.” Haase said she’s known middle schoolers who put wrinkle cream on their faces because of the messages they’re getting from society.

“That is something as parents, we really need to push back against,” Haase, who is also a parent of teens, said.

Parents should be aware of “Sinstagrams” (where they post “sins” or inappropriate things) or “Finstagrams” (“fake” Instagram accounts). These are second, secret accounts kids may have. If a parent follows their child on Instagram, the child may have a second account where more inappropriate things may be posted.

Along with social media, Haase addressed sexting. She said sexting can be a criminal offense and should be taken seriously. She said she has seen a 10-year-old be placed on the registered sex offender list for life because of sexting. Haase said sexting is so common and normalized among youth, that they view it as the new “first base” in dating.

“Ten, eleven, twelve is the perfect time to start talking with your kids about these issues,” Haase said.

She urged parents to be as alert as possible about these things. Resources she mentioned include: CommonSenseMedia.org and SmartSocial.com.

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