Talking to children about ‘swatting’ at schools

Published: Apr. 11, 2023 at 5:01 PM EDT
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CANTON, New York (WWNY) - Recent swatting incidents across the north country have left many children and parents worried about safety.

Karen Harrington has two children who go to Potsdam Central and one child attending Canton Central. Both school districts were targets of fake threats, also known as swatting.

“It’s, like, heartbreaking really because I don’t remember 25 years ago when I was in their shoes, I don’t remember ever having to deal with stuff like this and if it did, it was very rare,” she said.

Swatting can be stressful for kids, says Dr. Jayme Smith, director of Behavioral Health at Canton-Potsdam Hospital. She says it’s important to get a child to talk about things like this and for parents to listen.

“When you do go to your children to have a discussion, it’s really important that you just let them talk. Ask them what they think about it, ask them what they feel about it. We really need to validate what they’re thinking and feeling because this is scary stuff,” she said.

Dr. Smith says the stress goes beyond children - that parents, teachers and school staff should also think about their own mental health.

“It’s working through a process not just as a parent, how to deal with it ourselves, let alone how we can help our kids work through it and not scare them, but also make them aware and make them...You know, we talk to them and really make them understand that these things happen,” said Harrington.

There’s legislation in Albany from Assemblyman Scott Gray and Senator Mark Walczyk that would stiffen the penalty for swatting by making it a felony.