FROM THE DESK OF THE PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER:
Growing up in the world today is a bigger responsibility than it was 25 years ago. Technology is more advanced, widespread, and easier to use. While speaking with a local high school's entire freshman class this week, London Police began sharing information about bullying. The students were provided the definition of bullying and then were asked to shout out the different ways their peers bully.
Cyber-bullying was the first description approximately 300 students immediately called out. Twenty-five years ago, cyber-bullying was just budding--today, it's in full bloom. No matter the type of harassment, tormenting, or bullying, it's to be taken seriously. There are two School Resource Officers present within the school system currently, and if any student should experience bullying they should report it to the SRO's before it gets out of hand. Any harassment sent via text message or through the internet should be documented/saved in a screenshot by the person being cyber-bullied. Click the following link to find out when to involve law enforcement if someone is being bullied:
On average, teens send and receive 96 text messages per-day, the popularity of instantly messaging has also increased the dangers such as bullying, sexting, predators, and distracted driving. Under Kentucky law, anyone under 18 is prohibited from cell phone use while driving. Almost 7,200 accidents were linked to distracted drivers in 2013, according to a Kentucky State Police report. Twenty-two people died in those crashes.
On another cell-phone related note, some may not understand completely what "sexting" is so here's the definition: It’s when one person takes flirty, nude or somewhat nude photos of themselves and send them to another person with their cell phone or other device used for texting. Why do people do this? Generally it’s from peer pressure from the person receiving the message. This sounds pretty risky, right? Does this happen with teens? Yes.
Sexting can not only ruin a reputation and become emotionally damaging, but arrests can be made. If a minor, under 18, sends any nude photo it's considered child pornography and Federally, they could potentially go to prison for 30 years to life. That also includes whoever has the photo(s) in their possession as well. Parents with teens, now is the time to talk about the dangers and the responsibility of technology, as well as the choices they have to make each time they press "send" or "reply."
Compromising photos that may be sent to "friends" could actually end up being seen by people that they weren't intended for or end up being placed on the internet for the world to see. That "friend" your teen may have met online and is now messaging on social media may not be the person they think they are and as it turns out, is in fact a sexual predator. It happens.
PewInternet reports that 32% of all teens using the internet say they have been targets of receiving threatening messages, have had private messages (emails and texts) forwarded without their consent, have had embarrassing photos posted without their knowledge, and have had negative rumors spread about them online. If you or your teen uses social media, be aware of their privacy settings and who they are sending photos/messages to. Here's a list of the top social media sites used by teens today:
To wrap things up, London Police concluded speaking with the teens by sharing this tidbit of information: Any photo that is taken on a cell phone or sent/posted on the internet is there forever. Any photo can be retrieved from a phone after it has been supposedly "deleted" and any "anonymous" internet user can be located and their identity can be revealed. Nothing is truly private through technology and the decisions you make while using it are a big responsibility.
Five useful tips to protect yourself and others when using technology:
1. Keep social networking pages private and change your privacy settings on all of them.
2. Avoid adding "friends" that you don't personally know or haven't met
3. Do not provide too much personal information such as your location, address, phone number, and full birth date on social media. Also don't post photos while you are gone on vacation - this could place a target on your home for a robbery.
4. No matter how pressured you feel, do not send nude photos to anyone. It's not worth the risk and emotional damage.
5. Should you witness any act of cyber-bullying, report it immediately.