Renewed urgency to protect children online following Westfield firefighter’s arrest

Hampden County

WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A renewed urgency to keep children safe online following the arrest of a Westfield firefighter, accused of sending sexually suggestive messages to someone he thought was a 13-year-old girl.

22News spoke with local youth organizations about how they’re educating kids to be safe online.

Westfield firefighter charged with enticing a child

“In some ways, social media can be a really powerful tool for girls to expressive themselves and for advocating for change, so we know the power of this tool, but they also need to understand the challenges that exist and the dangers quite frankly,” Suzanne Parker, executive director of Girls Inc. of the Valley, said.

The Holyoke-based organization has to balance teaching girls ways to empower themselves, while also avoiding the dangers of social media, like to never trust someone they meet online.

The Boys and Girls Club of West Springfield is trying to enforce those same rules.

“Make sure you’re not ever recording, you’re not giving out personal information, your name your address, what school you go to,” The School-Aged Program Director, Marissa Friedman, told 22News.

The Department of Justice has a help sheet for parents about keeping kids safe online during the pandemic.

Department of Justice

The agency recommends that people call 911 if they suspect the exploitation of a child online.

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