Amid online threats, mental health experts urge parents to monitor kids’ social media

Nationwide school shooting threats, circulated on social media, put district officials, parents and students across the Central Coast on high alert on Friday.

“It’s a bit baffling to know what to take seriously and what might be a joke, or I think there’s a trend on social media,” said Cassie Edler, a worried mom.

“The district has been proactive in providing additional support from law enforcement at all of our school locations,” said Kenny Klein, public information officer for Santa Maria Co-operative High School in Santa Maria County.

The San Luis Obispo Police, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, confirmed that no credible threats were reported Friday.

Moms Demand Action said these social media trends are yet another reason to call for an end to gun violence.

“We are working locally with school districts and elected officials on notifying parents of their legal responsibility to simply store their firearms safely,” explained Kendall Bata, co-chair of Moms Demand Action Santa Barbara Chapter.

For mental health experts, monitoring social media is key in identifying red flags.

Withdrawal from friends, the victim of bullying or the bully, and excessive irritability,” said Dr. Joe Holyfield, psychologist and threat management coordinator for the Behavioral Health Assessment Response Project (B-HARP).

Since 2019, thanks to a government grant, Dr. Holifield has led B-HARP in San Luis Obispo County to provide threat management support to schools, hoping to serve as a model throughout California.

“Consider developing a Community Threat Response Team that will triangulate law enforcement, educational institutions, behavioral health and divert students who may be experiencing difficulties,” added Dr. Holyfield.

The next step is to create a network.

“Train mental health professionals in the things to look for in their work,” Holyfield said.

B-HARP will provide more courses to local schools next spring. They also plan to connect with parents and students through surveys so that they feel more comfortable reporting threats to law enforcement and county officials.

San Luis Obispo County has a Mental Health Crisis Line that teens and struggling parents can call at (800) 783-0607. In an emergency, call 9-1-1.


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