In 2013, a heartbreaking case made international headlines and struck at the core of parents throughout the world. It all began when then 7th grader Canadian Amanda Todd went online using a webcam in hopes of meeting new people. She was complimented on her looks, told she was “beautiful” and was eventually convinced to expose herself per a man’s online request. That seemingly simple act began a downward spiral for Amanda. Her topless photo was shared and spread like wildfire on Facebook, which then led to subsequent bullying and cyberbullying by classmates and others. Distraught and feeling very alone, Amanda chronicled her painful experience in her YouTube video, “My Story: Struggling, bullying, suicide and self-harm”.
On October 10, 2013, just a month after uploading that video, Amanda committed suicide.
Most Kids Are Online
Addressing a crowd of nearly 200 parents and teens on March 10, 2014, Hamilton County Detective Alex Petty showed this video and began a candid discussion about teens and social media.
Detective Petty asked the kids in the room, “How many of you go online to surf, play games or text your friends?” Nearly all raised their hands, reinforcing the statistics that most teens (ages 12 to 17) are actively online:
- 62% go online every day
- 97% play games online
- 92% surf the web everyday for fun
- 63% use smart phones or iPads to get online
- 75% use instant message
- 43% use online stores to buy things
He added, “Kids, did you know that 1 in 10 college admissions officers routinely check applicants’ social network pages?” Detective Petty also shared that nearly 2 in every 5 applicants had information on social media sites that reflected poorly on them.
“You can get kicked off your sports team or miss a shot at going to your favorite college if you aren’t careful about what you post,” he cautioned.
Online Do’s and Don’ts
To help both parents and kids navigate online waters, Detective Petty shared a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” when chatting, posting, viewing or gaming online.
- Don’t share anything you would not feel comfortable having your family see.
- Don’t share inappropriate photos.
- Don’t make offensive comments or use foul language.
- Don’t share personal information including your birthday, home address, vacation plans, or any information that could be used to answer security questions.
- Enable the privacy settings on your account.
- Parents: do monitor your child’s activities!
- Parents: do have the passwords to each one of your child’s accounts.
- Parents: do know your child’s online friends.
- Parents: establish rules about what your child can and cannot share.
Reminding parents how important it is to have access to and actually review the applications downloaded on phones, mobile devices or computers, Detective Petty stated, “Teens… that iPhone you have? It belongs to your mom and dad. They own that phone – they just let you borrow it.”
Next in this Teens & Social Media series, Detective Petty addresses some scary applications that can be potentially dangerous to kids.
Committed to preserving public safety and the protection of children, Hamilton County Sheriff Mark Bowen and Detective Alex Petty hosted a community forum on “Teens & Social Media” in Noblesville, IN on March 10, 2014. I deeply appreciate their eagerness to share this information and help educate parents and teens about online safety. Sheriff Bowen stated, “Having seen the number of cases increase with regard to social media issues and knowing that it’s a very hot topic in our community these days, we felt it was important to get the message out to parents and teens alike on some of the pitfalls associated with the Internet and social media.”
Detective Alex Petty is a veteran investigator in crimes against children. A former Hanover College football player and now law enforcement officer for 23 years, Alex has been with the Hamilton Co. Sheriff’s Department since 1996 where he started in Sheriff’s court security, moved to the patrol division and was then promoted to detective in 2006. Alex holds several professional designations including that of certified drug recognition expert and instructor, crisis negotiator, and instructor for Child First/Finding Words child forensic interview training in Indiana. A loving husband and proud father of four fabulous kids aged 17 to 10, Alex coaches football and basketball in his spare time. Ever since he was a little boy, Alex wanted to be an investigator. “I come from a single parent home, so I know what it’s like for the single mom and dad,” he shared. “Kids are forced to adapt to ever-changing societal influences; some good, some bad. I want parents to know that if they communicate with their kids, take charge and do their part to show kids a healthy way to live, they really can strengthen family relationships.” Have a question for Alex? Contact him at (317) 733-1282 or Alex.Petty@HamiltonCounty.IN.gov.
Raising awareness of the world-wide epidemic of child abuse has become Ginger’s life mission. An impassioned child advocate, trainer, speaker and child forensic interviewer, Ginger can be contacted via her website, “Ginger Kadlec: 4UrKids” at gingerkadlec.com or find her on Facebook at facebook.com/gingergkadlec.
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