By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — A generation ago, children did not need to worry about Internet predators.
And while most parents warned their children against talking to strangers, the frequency of abductions and other crimes against kids was not as great as it is today.
That’s why the Police Department, working with the schools, started the Take 25 program, as in Take 25 minutes to talk to your children about safety and the need to be vigilant at all times.
As part of this effort, students in the town’s elementary schools created posters that remind children how to keep themselves safe. A winner was selected from each school and the winning posters were displayed in the community room at the police station last week.
Katie Kooken, a fifth-grader at Thomson School, titled her poster “Stranger Danger.” It depicts a man in a car, who asks a girl if she would like to see his dog.
The girl is shown thinking: Do I know this person?
Katie’s poster advises, “Don’t talk to someone unless you know them” and “Don’t get in a stranger’s car.” Katie is the daughter of Jeff and Jen Kooken.
Kelsey Hanle, a Sargent School fifth-grader, made a poster that warns about the dangers of the Internet and other social media, including the posting of “wicked embarrassing photos.”
Christopher Hanle, Kelsey’s father, noted that with the invention of the iPhone and other devices, “The world is in your pocket.” Andrea Hanle, Kelsey’s mother, said she and her husband monitor their children’s use of the Internet.
Kelsey’s sister Lauren is an eighth-grader at North Andover Middle School.
Police Chief Paul Gallagher said the elementary students did hundreds of posters and it was difficult to choose the top six. Other posters offered strong messages against substance abuse and urged young people to refrain from bullying.
Gallagher stressed the need for parents to talk to their children about how to keep themselves safe in today’s world.
“Normally, when I speak at events to children, I address them as our future leaders. But this group tonight, I addressed as current leaders, as they have already stepped up to the plate to positively influence their peers, their family and their community,” state Rep. Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, said.
Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, who often urges parents to be aware of what their children are viewing on the Internet, also attended the event.