Police to parents: Monitor child’s phones, e-mail, social media
By Bill Rams
The news over the weekend understandably shocked parents and school officials: Nicolas Junior High School eighth-grade teacher Melissa Lingren was arrested on suspicion of inappropriate sexual relations with two male students.
On one of the boy's phones, police say they found nude photos the teacher.
"As a parent myself, I understand the fine line between wanting to trust your children and wanting to protect them," said Fullerton Police Sgt. Jeff Stuart. “There are a number of steps parents can take to protect their children from sexual predators – both on-line and in real life.”
Stranger abductions are rare, and police officials say predators follow a familiar pattern: They try to get to know and earn the trust of their victims, a tactic police call “grooming.”
Stuart says parents should get to know their children’s friends and teach them about boundaries.
“Do your best to make them feel safe that they can tell you everything and anything,” he said.
What about the web?
- Never give out personal information.
- Never meet anybody in real life you don’t know.
- Never send or share photos without a parent’s permission.
- Use privacy settings on social media to ensure your child is not allowed to engage with strangers.
- Monitor their social media, phones and email.
“I actually encourage parents to utilize the GPS feature on their cell phones and to occasionally audit or install software that monitors their cell phone and email usage,” Stuart said. “I know many parents are not comfortable snooping in their child’s space. In many of these cases, if a parent had been monitoring their phone, e-mail and Internet usage, they might have seen the relationship developing before the actual abuse had occurred.”
Stuart says to call police immediately if you suspect a child has been victimized.
In the current case, one of the victims told a Nicolas school counselor about the inappropriate behavior and showed the photos.
The counselor immediately notified police. Lindgren was in custody five hours later; she has since posted $100,000 bail.
Earlier this week, more than 500 people showed up at the school to ask school officials questions and express concern.
“It is troubling and extremely sad how often these types of stories hit the news,” Stuart said. “Please call or email us if you have any questions or want additional tips.”
Stuart encourages parents to like the police department’s Facebook page, where police offer safety tips.