Police officers who deal with cybercrime have a unique perspective. They work with a variety of people who have a wide range of issues. They also get to see how Internet crimes affect the lives of victims and perpetrators. Officer David Gomez is a school resource officer (SRO) who takes what he learns on the job and teaches parents and kids. I’d like to share with you the Internet safety lessons from one of his presentations.
Officer Gomez is a school resource officer (SRO) with the Meridian Police Department in Meridian, Idaho, at a high school of 2,300 students. He was previously an SRO at a middle school.
In a talk that’s an hour and 43 minutes long, Officer Gomez shares advice with parents and kids over age 10. The video was posted in February 2018, but it’s still quite relevant. Not only does it raise awareness of what middle-school and high-school students are doing online, it’s also packed with practical tips for parents to protect their kids online.
The talk, titled You’re Losing Your Kids to Social Media: Internet Safety, covers social media, Internet predators, sending nudes, cyberbullying, apps, and parental controls.
Below is the video, and my notes on the presentation.
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Internet Safety Advice for Parents, from a Police Officer
Most popular apps and sites have a minimum age of 13; some have minimum ages of 17 or 18.
Kids often post about cutting themselves so that people will compliment them (tell them they’re perfect, beautiful, or awesome).
Officer Gomez creates fake accounts that look like kids, and sends friend requests to kids. They blindly accept. They shouldn’t accept friends they don’t actually know, because sexual predators use fake social media accounts to befriend kids.
Kids readily tell their “friends” where they are and where they plan to be, even when they don’t actually know those “friends.” They should only give their location to people they truly know.
Lock down your Facebook privacy settings so that non-friends can only see your name and profile picture. For your profile picture, consider using an avatar rather than a photo of you.
Don’t believe that Snapchat snaps will truly disappear. It’s fairly easy to save snaps.
Kids often have multiple Instagram accounts, and only tell their parents about the one they want them to know about. You should check for these accounts.
Don’t post about being away from home (vacation, wedding, funeral, etc.). Burglars can use that info.
Officer Gomez recommends that you give your kids a limit of 200 online friends. Beyond 200, the contacts tend to be strangers.
Officer Gomez created a fake account of a 13-year-old girl. Someone claiming to be a 26-year-old male soldier asked “her” for nudes (nude photos). He said he’d be back in the US soon, and wanted to take her out for dinner. He then asked for permission to hold her hand, kiss her, and do sexual things with her. Each time, “she” said she’s 13, but OK. They agreed to meet. When Officer Gomez met the man to arrest him for enticing children over the Internet (a felony), it was actually a homeless man who had never been in the military. Every day he went to the public library and sent friend requests to about 100 middle-school girls. About 90% of them accepted. When they did, he told them the same lie, and asked for nudes, and to meet. About 20 girls had sent nudes, and 2 had met for sex.
The summer after that, Officer Gomez created fake accounts of 13-14 year-old kids. They arrested 16 men who scheduled meetings with the “kids.”
Sending Nudes (Sexting)
Kids bully each other by creating fake accounts, then using them to ask other kids for nudes. When they get the nudes, they use them for bullying.
Boys pressure girls who are younger than them into sending them nudes.
Adult men create fake accounts of girls or boys, and use them to ask kids for nudes.
Sending or showing a nude photo of a minor, even if the photo was taken and sent by that minor, is dissemination of child porn. Even having a nude photo of a minor is illegal; the first offense is a misdemeanor, and the second offense is a felony. Note: laws vary by state and country.
You send out a nude photo, it’s like putting a tattoo on your forehead. Because it’s forever.Officer David Gomez
Once a photo is on the Internet, it’s almost impossible to completely delete all copies of it.
Nudes can be used for sextortion. Someone will contact a kid, sometimes months or even years later, and threaten to share the nudes if their demands aren’t met.
Both sender and receiver get charged with a misdemeanor if nudes are sent, even if mutually consensual. Note: laws vary by state and country.
If you get an unsolicited nude, delete it or inform law enforcement.
If a minor has a nude photo of a minor more than 3 years younger than them, that’s a felony on the first offense. Note: laws vary by state and country.
Nude photos can affect a person’s future employment, relationships, family, and friends.
If you discover your kid has sent a nude, contact law enforcement. They want to help, not ruin kids’ lives. They’ll do what they can to track down and delete the photo.
If you give your kids smartphones, they’re going to get child pornography, they’re going to get adult pornography from people they don’t even know. Part of giving them that is teaching them how to delete, how to appropriately tell you guys. … Talk about it ahead of time.Officer David Gomez
When your kids are cyberbullied, take the opportunity to teach them conflict resolution skills. They’ll need to know how to resolve conflict for the rest of their lives.
How to Stop Cyberbullying
- Stop talking to or about the bully(s).
- Block and delete the bully(s) from social media so you don’t see their posts, and they don’t see yours.
- Tell your friends/contacts not to share the bully’s activities with you, or talk to you about the bully.
Be extremely careful about having your location automatically shared, which can be attached to a post, embedded in an image, or shared in a chat.
Secret Vault Apps
There are many apps that disguise their true purpose. They look like a calculator, or a tic-tac-toe game, but by entering a code or pattern, a kid can hide photos, chat, browse the Web, etc.
Parental Controls Features
Parental control software may include the following features:
- Disable GPS
- Filter downloads
- Disable app installation
- Show you child’s messages
- Filter friends
- Disable phone at certain times
- Disable phone while driving
Parental Control Software
Officer Gomez named the following parental control software:
Kids can find ways around parental controls, but they’ll still benefit from seeing that you care enough to put them in place, and from talking to them about their usage.
Your phone service provider (such as Verizon) may offer paid parental controls.
7th graders tell 5th and 6th graders about sex. You need to have honest conversations with your kids about sex by 5th or 6th grade to give them the information you want them to have.
Don’t give kids smartphones until age 13, advises Officer Gomez. He says that, if they truly need a phone, you give them a dumb phone.
Don’t let kids take phones to their bedrooms at night, recommends Officer Gomez. Instead, have kids charge phones in a central charging location in your home. When they’re charging, you can check them.
You must have the password to your kid’s phone, so that you can check it, insists Officer Gomez.
Officer Gomez recommends that you have a weekly family meeting (he calls his a “tribal council”) to discuss topics relevant to your kids, including sex and use of technology.
Some video games (such as Minecraft) have a local-only mode, which allows only players on the local network, rather than players from all over the Internet.
It’s very difficult to filter YouTube. Even YouTube Kids has inappropriate content. Supervise your kids’ use of YouTube until they’re old enough.
Kids often have a second device their parents don’t know about. Look for them.
Occasionally do a long phone check, and keep your kid’s phone for a couple hours. Watch the notifications they receive. That can alert you to hidden apps.
- David Gomez’s Facebook page (facebook.com)
What You Should Do
- Teach your kids not to accept friend requests from people they don’t know.
- Teach your kids not to tell strangers about their location, or where they plan to go.
- Teach your kids to lock down their privacy settings to strangers see little to no info about them.
- Teach your kids that sending and receiving nude photos can be illegal, as it’s child porn.
- Teach your kids that it can be nearly impossible to delete nude photos once they’re sent, and they can come back to haunt a person years later.
- Teach your kids that if they receive an unsolicited nude photo, they should delete it or inform law enforcement.
- When your kids are cyberbullied, take the opportunity to teach them conflict resolution skills.
- When your kids are cyberbullied, teach them to first stop talking to or about the bully, then block and delete the bully, then tell their friends not to tell them about the bully’s activities.
- Watch for secret vault apps, which your kids can use to hide content or functionality.
- Consider using parental control software.
- Consider not giving kids smartphones until age 13. If they truly need a phone, consider a dumb phone.
- Don’t let kids take phones to their bedrooms at night. Instead, have kids charge phones in a central charging location in your home.
- Regularly check your kids’ phones. Occasionally keep them for a couple hours and watch the notifications they receive, which can alert you to hidden apps.
- Look for additional devices your kids may be using without your knowledge.