Drumheller RCMP brought an important message to junior high students at DVSS last Tuesday, and that is to be aware of all the dangers that lurk online.
Constable Tom Dobrich presented “Think Before You Send” to a packed Kaleidoscope Theatre. The message was of awareness and safety.
While he pointed out the many benefits of the wireless age, with instant information and communication, there are many pitfalls.
“These have been the subject of many complaints,” he said.
These are local complaints, as he says police have received a number of reports of online abuse, in particular cyber bullying.
Some of the issues he touched on were privacy, and how easy it is for a person to reveal too much information, making them vulnerable to predators.
“Don’t kid yourself, they are looking for you,” he said.
Recent statistics he quoted on privacy show that 71 per cent of teens received a message from a person they did not know, 45 per cent say the stranger asked for personal information, 30 per cent of teens considered meeting someone they met online, and 14 per cent have met people face to face, they befriended online.
He talked about the legal consequences of many of these activities. He made youth understand that everything online is fair game. Information posted on social networking sites can be read by law enforcement, used as evidence in court and published in the media.
A simple guide he told students was don’t say anything online you wouldn’t say in public.
There could also be legal consequences for activities such as using threatening or defamatory language and harassment.
The law could also get involved in the case of minors and “sexting,” and in fact, it is possible that child pornography charges could result from teens sending racy or nude photos of themselves or peers.
Another major concern he said that is growing is dating abuse. This is the case where a couple could be in a relationship, and one party uses the technology to control or harass the subject. He said one in three teens have reported receiving text messages in excess of 30 times in an hour, and 17 per cent said they have been afraid of what their partner would do if they did not respond to a message.
This was the first presentation by the Drumheller RCMP of “Think Before You Send.” It was developed by an attorney general in Massachusetts, and Constable Dobrich modified the program for a Canadian audience.
He explains the local detachment was looking for a program because of its concern with local complaints, and has been working on finding and introducing a program since October.
He said in September they are planning to bring the program to all area schools, and other groups that request it.
For more information on the program, contact Constable Dobrich at 403-823-7590.