HOPE and the School Health Council sponosred a meeting April 14 with Jean Vaughan of the Mississippi Attorney General’s office to discuss Internet safety and how to prevent cyber bullying.
“It was a really good crowd,” Vaughan said of the parents in attendance. “That just shows how interested they are in their kids.”
Today’s children and youth have grown up with Internet access and digital media and tend not to realize the impact or the dangers that can be associated with its use. Posting to Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat is not private and is permanent.
“If you post something it immediately posts to your Facebook account and anyone can see it,” Vaughan said. “Pictures have data on them that tell where they were made. You can tell if somebody’s at the beach or on vacation and has the whole fmaily with them. Anybody who reads that knows you’re not home. When you’re posting on line, you’re letting the world know and it’s not private.”
Vaughan also warned of people posing as youth on social media.
“There are lots of young children on Facebook,” Vaughan said despite requirements that children must be 13 or older to have an account. “Parents need to be aware there’s a reason for that. The law says you don’t need to advertise certain things or inquire about information from children under 13. Often people – predators – pose as children online. Ask your kids who their friends are. Find out their passwords. If you’re a parent and you’re paying for that phone or that Internet connection, you need to know who they’re talking to.”
Vaughan said children and youth don’t know or understand the dangers of meeting new friends online.
“They talk to someone for two weeks and think they know them,” Vaughan said. That’s how predators gain their trust. We warn kids about stranger danger and they should be aware of that, but with predators it’s usually someone they know or think they know.”
Stop, save and report
Cyber bullying is one of the latest forms of digital media abuse and Vaughan said it is a wide spread issue.
“Bullying has been around for years but now it’s moved to electronic communication,” Vaughan said. “If a child is carrying around that phone or Ipad or something it’s with them all the time and they can’t escape it.”
Vaughan said any form of bullying at or in school settings should be reported to school administration, but any form of bullying through media should be saved and reported to authorities.
“Stop, save and report it,” Vaughan said. “Save it and show it to a police officer and they will know how to track it.”
Tracking is something most youth don’t think of when they use electronic media. Many teens think the images they post through Instagram or Snapchat disappear quickly but Vaughan said that is not true.
“It will disappear from the screen it was sent to in ten seconds, but it doesn’t just go away,” Vaughan said. “It’s on the phone that sent it and the one that received it and it can be retrieved. Delete does not mean delete and the Internet is forever.”
Vaughan encourages youth to use good judgement for the present and the future.
“Colleges and employers look at things like this and how you represent yourself,” Vaughan said.
And parents are the first line of defense for children.
“There are so many wonderful things about this technology, but you wouldn’t let your kids drive a car without giving them some kind of instructions,” Vaughan said. “It’s the same with the Internet. The parent has the role of guiding them.”