Experts share social media safety tips

By From page A1 | October 04, 2017

The El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office and the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department teamed up to provide a social media safety presentation for the community at Oak Ridge High School last Thursday.

Assemblyman Kevin Kiley organized and emceed the event. In opening remarks, Kiley noted he wanted to organize a collaboration “for the safety of families.” Kiley was a freshman at Harvard University when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was also a student and Kiley recalled that he was one of the “first few hundred” people to sign up for the campus website, The Facebook, which would explode into the behemoth it is today.

“The influence of social media has only continued to grow,” Kiley added. “There are positives that come with social media, but also risks. The hand of the government shouldn’t be too heavy in this area — so it is up to families to stay informed.”

Oak Ridge Principal Aaron Palm shared that he often sees students who have “24/7 anxiety because of having to protect their online reputations.”

“As an adult who didn’t grow up with social media, I can self-regulate my use,” Palm continued. “How quickly can we instill skills so kids today can have the positive experience online many adults have?”

Palm shared data that found while 75 percent of Oak Ridge students say they feel “safe” at school, 25 percent do not. He explained that many students feel the need to constantly check their phones to see what is being said about them online. “They are not afraid of physical safety, but of harassment,” Palm said. “Physical safety has gone to social and emotional safety fears.”

El Dorado County deputy district attorney Lisette Suder said she works to prosecute perpetrators in many sexual assault and cyber safety cases, with 30 current open cases relating to victims ages 5 to 13 years old. Stating that it’s actually “rare” for a victim to be “drugged and kidnapped,” Suder explained that children are more likely to be groomed and go with a person they come to believe “understands and accepts them in ways their parents and friends can’t.”

“Next thing you know they are agreeing to meet,” she continued. “It is heartbreaking to see the devastation and shock when these children learn (the perpetrator) is doing the same thing to others.”

District attorney investigator John Robertson shared his concern about geotagging. “Location data and even home address can be captured as part of the grooming process,” he said.

Deputy Dave Turnage is a school resource officer in the county. He said he views cyber bullying as “a major issue” on school campuses today. Turnage said in his experience, he thinks 50 percent of teens have sent or received a nude or a semi-nude picture. Even with the most popular used platform, Snapchat, which supposedly deletes an image after viewing, a screen shot can be taken and then inappropriate images may be shared hundreds of times.

“This is where I come in,” Suder said. “It is also illegal to share these photos.” She explained that there are separate penal codes for possessing, duplicating, exchanging or producing an image of a child engaged in sexual conduct.

“This could be displaying genitals or buttocks in a suggestive way,” Suder said. “The laws apply to youths and adults and penalties could range from misdemeanors to felonies.”

Robertson said he has seen an “uptick” in sextortion cases, where victims are blackmailed to send more inappropriate pictures or the first ones will be shared. “The key is not letting these pictures out there to begin with,” he said.

Suder noted that it is also illegal to post rude or vicious personal attacks online or to post another person’s personal information online. Repeated or unwanted contact and outright threats are also illegal.

Suder said she has found that the biggest issue is getting victims to come forward. “Parents need to stay vigilant,” she said. “Enforce the rules about internet and phone use. Know passwords, email addresses and phone numbers. Set parental controls.”

Folsom resident Jennifer DeLugach told Village Life that she came to the event to stay up to date with new technologies that her children may be exposed to. The mother of three children ages 16, 13 and 11 said, “I don’t want to invade my kids’ privacy, but I want to protect them too. It’s hard to find the right balance.”

“The worst thing you can do is give kids unlimited access to technology,” Turnage said during the presentation. “The best thing is to limit access and set parental controls.”

And while it’s difficult to stay ahead — District Attorney Vern Pierson gave the analogy of kids as “digital natives” to their “digital immigrant” parents — Suder cautioned, “Study up. Your kids are smarter than you … their safety outweighs their privacy.”

Julie Samrick

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