Retired Kentucky State Trooper James Johnson spends his days traveling to schools all over Kentucky warning students about Internet safety. Johnson, now with the Attorney General’s Office, tells of grim stories where young people have lost their lives because of the Internet.
Johnson brought his message to students at LaRue County High School last week. He warned students that anything posted on the Internet is in the public domain and anyone can see it. Associating with hate groups, violent gaming and sexual behavior remains on your history forever. Students applying for jobs or college should know that the admissions staffs and prospective employers look at FaceBook and MySpace to check your background.
Cyberbullying is when a person is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated or embarrassed by another person using the Internet or mobile phones. Legislation is due to be passed where persons will be prosecuted for this crime. Johnson told of a 17-year-old girl from Mt. Washington who was bullied after something was posted online and the girl committed suicide.
There are sex offenders and predators online pretending to be upstanding citizens and luring unsuspecting victims into their grasps. A 13-year-old girl was dropped at a mall by a family member who had no knowledge that she was meeting a 23-year-old married man. The young girl later was found dead. She had been molested. It took law enforcement about six hours to get her password into her Internet site to see who she had been communicating with. These predators know exactly what to say to these young people to gain their trust.
Johnson advised students to never meet someone they have met online and to give their Internet ID and password to your parents or a trusted adult in case of emergency. It could save their life.
Sexting is when a person posts explicit pictures online. They can be charged with possession and distribution of child pornography and placed on the sex offender registry for life. A poll taken showed that 22 percent of girls and 18 percent of boys admitting sending nude photos to others.
Tips for parents: talk to your kids, ask questions and then confirm to make sure they are telling the truth. Ask to see their profile page tomorrow. This gives them a chance to remove everything that isn’t appropriate or safe and it becomes a way to teach them what not to post. It’s not an invasion of their privacy if strangers can see it. There is a difference between reading their paper diary and reading their MySpace. One is between them and the paper and their other between them and 700 million people online. Remember, you’re still the parent. If they don’t listen or follow your rules, unplug the computer.
Tips for kids: Put everything behind a password protected wall, where only friends can see. Protect your password and make sure you really know who someone is before you allow them onto your friends list. Today’s best friend can be tomorrow’s worst enemy. Blur your photos a bit so they won’t be abused by cyberbullies or predators. Don’t post anything your parents, principal or a predator couldn’t see. Remember what you post online stays online forever. So think before you click. Get your friend’s OK before posting something about them or their picture online. Check what your friends are posting about you. They may be putting you at risk.
Unless you’re prepared to attach your MySpace or FaceBook to your college/job/internship/scholarship or sports team application … don’t post it publicly.