Protecting your children from online harm

Posted, Thursday, July 3, 2014 --- 4:15 p.m.

Just a few weeks ago we showed you the dangers of social media. You will remember two local high school students were the latest victims of their "selfies" getting into the wrong hands.

Their revealing photos, sent to supposed friends, ended up on a facebook page. Madison Police were alerted to the page and started investigating.

The latest example of why we all need to be careful with social media, and why parents need to keep up with the changing times.

For the past two years at Madison East, Kristen Devitt has not only been walking the halls, but surfing the web.

"There's twitter, instagram, snap chat, vine, youtube," says Devitt.

She says high school has changed. Hallway fights are being paralleled by social media attacks.

"I think that's something we've never really had to deal with before, it's the new technology that's really pushing things along."

With iPod's, tablets, cell phones, lap tops, kindles and nooks all easily accessing the internet Devitt says there's rarely a time when a child isn't connected.

"When I was in elementary school, kids got bullied at school and then came home to their families and had that time to rest and restore and gather their self esteem and now they can get bullied 24 hours a day," adds Devitt.

Devitt says even if your child isn't the one being bullied-things your children do or say through these apps could still leave permanent scars.

"I think the problem there is that whatever you do on the internet never actually goes away."

Many times without a second thought kids post rude or hurtful comments, distasteful opinions and even share sexually explicit photos.

"A teenage love story doesn't always last for the rest of their lives."

Devitt says she's seen it happen too many times, a young girl who thinks a photo will stay private, and suddenly it's circulating through the school.

"We need to recognize that once we put something out there, we lose control of it," says DCI Special Agent in Charge, Matt Joy.

Matt Joy is the state's Internet Crimes Against Children commander. He says the minute a teen snaps a nude picture, they've made themselves vulnerable for the rest of their lives.

"We take protecting our children very seriously."

They call it sextortion-all it takes is for a naked picture to fall into the wrong hands, and then with the threat of posting that picture online, they use it to keep getting more from the child.

"Where is that image going to end up where is it going to be distributed? Shared with? Online? Overseas? We see those things," Joy questions.

Joy says the best way to keep your kids safe is to talk to them. Make them realize the ramifications that one small action could have on the rest of their lives.

Devitt recommends that you take away their electronics for certain hours every night. That detox will make sure bullies and predators stay out of the house, but it will also stop your kids from sending or posting things they shouldn't be late at night. And lastly know what smart phone apps they're using.

Make sure that you're familiar with everything these apps can do and claim to do. Both Joy and Devitt say the internet is the new playground and now you don't just have to protect them from predators----but from themselves.

Some of the sites most commonly used include
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Kik, Snap Chat, Tumblr, Vine, Yik Yak, and Tinder.

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