PREVENT Defense

Preston Crissey, school resource officer for the Yankton School District, is using video to educate parents on the ever-evolving and changing world of youth trends. 

A new educational program, spearheaded by School Resource Officer (SRO) Preston Crissey, takes education out of the classroom to YouTube, and aims to teach parents about their kids.

Crissey has been the full-time SRO for the Yankton School District (YSD) since last year and has taught DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) for nine years. The class is taught to fourth graders by police officers and aims to prevent youth involvement in controlled substances, gangs and violence by addressing these issues early in a child’s life.

More recently, Crissey has been working on another effort to prevent youth getting involved in dangerous and illegal activities, this time from the perspective of educating parents.

“I’ve been in the schools a lot teaching DARE, interacting with kids, but you don’t get a real in-depth look at what kids are really doing until you are an SRO,” Crissey said. “Then, you get opened up to the tons of things that the kids are currently doing or are trending to do.”

Some information about these trends comes from the students themselves, who tell the SRO about new things developing at school. The national news can also provide insight into trends that have not yet reached the Yankton community, Crissey said.

“Learning the job this last year gave me an idea to move forward with, as an SRO, the City of Yankton and the school district,” Crissey said. “Educating all around the boards was just really what I wanted to do.”

Crissey said he asked himself, how as a community could Yankton do better for students — because kids can be victims — and for parents so they know the fads — technological or otherwise — in which young people are engaging, fads that are rapidly changing.

“Even faculty and staff here, with the Juuling (a term for using e-cigarettes), they didn’t know what a Juul pod (a cartridge that plugs into an e-cigarette device a deliver nicotine or THC) was,” Crissey said. “So we had a meeting with staff members, showing them pods. Some had seen them around the class and didn’t know what they were. They thought they were flash drives.”

Crissey decided to start an educational program called, P.R.E.V.E.N.T., which stands for Parents Receiving Enlightening Videos Educating Newer Trends.

Crissey took the summer to reflect on the details of the program.

“By educating parents on the trends, a lot of the stuff that gets reported to me might not even happened anymore,” Crissey said.

The first video in what he plans as a series to educate parents on youth fads focuses on the popular image and video sharing app Snapchat, which is known to delete content as soon as it is viewed. Crissey’s video shows parents PIN-protected storage feature called “My Eyes Only,” which users can set up to store images and videos they want to keep private.

The video was posted to YouTube last week and already has over 1,100 views.

“Kids are currently using Snapchat as a real base of communication,” he said. “It’s user-friendly and when you send or receive pictures or messages, they disappear. So it’s really convenient for kids to use. They can share photos quickly, they don’t have to take a picture and then send it through a text message to friends.”

Once sent or viewed many parents believe it is gone, but that is not necessarily the case.

Not surprisingly, lots of students use Snapchat and it is at the root of many problems he faces as the SRO in the schools.

“A lot of parents already know about Snapchat, but a lot of them don’t already know about the My ‘Eyes Only portion;” Crissey said. “When I have parents come in to the school district and I educate them on this stuff, they say, ‘Little Johnny wouldn’t have something like that.’”

Even so, Crissey said he hopes that by educating the parents, they will start to police their own child’s content, which could prevent problems at school.

“Just showing them the process of getting into ‘My Eyes Only,’ parents might discover explicit pictures or videos of their kids or other kids, of them vaping, of kids using paraphernalia, drinking,” Crissey said. “These are things that they want to save, share with their friends, but don’t want their parents to see.”

Crissey said he feels that education on this aspect of Snapchat would get PREVENT launched and headed in the right direction.

“There are still parents who may not have watched our video yet,” Crissey said. “They’ll have no idea that ‘My Eyes Only’ is out there and kids will still use it until parents find out that they have it.”

There is so much new and changing information in this area that Crissey, who is still learning much about the trends that youth is into, has not yet decided what the next video will address. Right now, the goal is to do one video per month on average, he said.

Helping Crissey with the videos is Todd Carr, Yankton High School’s director of bands and chair for the Music and Art Departments.

“I came up with the idea. I wanted to do something personable with the video, so that people can see a face with the name and understand that I am approachable and they can come to talk to me,” Crissey said. “Todd Carr did the video, did an excellent job.”

Carr knew enough about video to direct the actions of those in the video and the sequence of events, and to explain why it was necessary for the viewer to understand.

“It was quite overwhelming when I was asked to work on this video, knowing the impact that it may have,” Carr told the press & Dakotan. “It’s also an honor, as I know that students, parents and communities are having to deal with so much all the time. Anything we as a school district can do to help our community is certainly our goal.”

Feedback so far has been positive and many parents have said they did not know about Snapchat’s “My Eyes Only” feature, Crissey said.

Teachers have told him that the video is amusing but makes its point to viewers, which Crissey said is his priority.

“If we can help educate our parents, everybody wins,” he said. “Even the children, though they know that I am telling their parents what to look for, will still ultimately win because we can prevent, maybe, some pictures or videos that are inappropriate from getting out.”

Follow @CoraVanOlson on Twitter.

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