AG Josh Stein visits Seawell Elementary School in Chapel Hill and talks about cyber safety

As several students at Seawell Elementary School ran into the yard for a physical education class, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein reminisced on his way to a fifth-grade assembly in the gymnasium.

Stein, who attended the school in the 1970s, shared stories from his childhood with Principal Minnie Goins, including fleeing to areas farther from the school buildings.

“Normally we would come back,” he said with a chuckle.

But as Stein told the assembled students, many things have changed since he went to school – one big difference being the spread of technology and the internet.

Stein’s visit to his old wing was the last of his tours of North Carolina elementary schools, where he talks about cyber safety and moderation of screen time.

“Children are children, but the world we live in is completely different,” he said afterwards. “Parents like me don’t know what it’s like to be a kid today because we haven’t experienced it ourselves.”

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein speaks about cyber safety and moderation in the gym at Seawell Elementary School on February 24. CHCCS leaders including Principal Minnie Goins, Education Committee Vice Chair George Griffin, Assistant Superintendent Al Ciarochi and Education Committee Chair Rani Dasi stand to the side and listen to the address.

With mental health crises being reported in North Carolina teens — and social media playing a role — Stein and his office say they aim to get “upstream” by speaking to older elementary school students. The Attorney General said the goal is for these children to have an open dialogue with their parents about internet use, best practices and the balance between real life and what is seen on social media.

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“And by the way, that’s a rule I have to follow at home, too,” Stein told the Seawell students. “We all need to set boundaries for ourselves and remind ourselves that there are a lot of fun things in the real world that are also good to do.”

To stimulate these discussions, Stein’s office sends out cards with tips on staying safe online. There is also a Family Tech Agreement that students and caregivers can sign together, which serves as a commitment to practicing healthy communication and being aware of what information is being shared online.

A copy of the Family Tech Agreement card given to students by Attorney General Josh Stein’s office. The other page contained internet safety tips.

CHCCS Superintendent Nyah Hamlett said messages like Stein’s are an example of how she wants to help the school system be a bridge between homes and classrooms for students. Internet safety is important for every child, she said, and Hamlett shared some ways the district wants to teach this.

“Naturally, [we do it] through education with teachers and conversations about online safety,” the superintendent said. “But to be able to put information in the parents’ hands [is helpful]so they too can decide what is best for their child and run their household through online safety – which are some of the do’s and don’ts.”

Stein stressed to the students that he believes the Internet is a tool and he recognizes that children are increasingly spending their time on it. But the attorney general said he believes igniting broader conversations via the internet is also a helpful tool to nurture these students as they grow.

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“This is not about [being] Anti-Internet, it’s about Responsible Internet [usage]’ Stone adds. “And what we want is for parents to talk to their own child about what they think is appropriate. That’s what this Family Tech Agreement is all about. It lets parents set boundaries for their own children so we can protect them so they don’t get addicted or bad things happen to them.”

For Internet security advice from Stein’s office, visit the State Department of Justice’s website. does not charge any subscription fees and you can support our local journalism efforts directly here. Want more of what you see on Chapelboro? Let us bring you free local news and community information by signing up for our bi-weekly newsletter.