Keeping students out of trouble on the Internet was the focus of a recent talk by Delaware County Prosecutor Carol O’Brien at Big Walnut High School in Sunbury.
“The rule of thumb is,” O’Brien continued, “if there is stuff on your phone you wouldn’t want your parents to see or that would embarrass your parents, it shouldn’t be on your phone. And parents, if your child is a minor, it’s your phone; but if a crime is committed with that phone, it becomes evidence.”
O’Brien held a social media safety seminar at Big Walnut High last Thursday evening. During the session, attended by a few parents and their children, O’Brien spoke about how teenagers and pre-teens can get in trouble on the Internet.
Using a PowerPoint presentation titled “Selfies, Sexting and Other Silly Things,” O’Brien walked through a variety of social media and their dangers to younger users. She also said she was not a fan of teenagers having smart phones. Younger teens and even pre-teens are getting smart phones, O’Brien said, and it’s almost impossible for parents to keep up with the rapidly changing online environment.
“My children being older, I didn’t have to worry about that stuff – their phones were flip phones,” O’Brien said. “I love my iPhone. The Internet is one of our greatest inventions; it’s a wonderful tool, but it can also be a horrendous device. I hate it when kids have iPhones, and Apple is not being cooperative with law enforcement. I hate students using cellphones in school, but we lost that battle.”
O’Brien cautioned students about taking and sending selfies, inappropriate videos and sexting because whatever goes on the Internet stays there. She said in addition to pedophiles using social media to target children and teens, social media has also become a screening tool used by educators and businesses.
“Colleges and employers look at what’s on the net,” O’Brien said. “Pictures stay on the Internet, and it might seem cool when you’re a kid. It’s not so cool when you apply to college or you’re 25 years old and looking for a job.”
O’Brien also said taking and sending a nude photo of oneself or another minor is producing and publishing child pornography, a felony that includes possible prison time and registering as a sex offender. Forwarding an inappropriate photo of a minor, even if the sender did not create the photo, is publishing child pornography.
“If you get a picture like that because someone sent it to you, take it to a school administrator or parent,” O’Brien said. “Tell them you don’t want anything to do with it. If you just receive something like that, you’re not in trouble; but if you send it on, you are in trouble.”
O’Brien also spoke about Jessica Logan, a Cincinnati teen who committed suicide one month after graduating from high school because a former boyfriend circulated nude photos of her on the Internet following their breakup.
O’Brien encouraged parents not to be intimidated by their children’s use of smart phones and the Internet.
“If you see something or suspect something, don’t worry about being embarrassed,” O’Brien said. “Be vigilant, be involved, teach your children to talk about what they experience online, and be open and listen to what your children have to say.”
O’Brien said she tries to present her message at all schools in Delaware County, and said she would meet with parents in large or small groups in homes, or present “Selfies, Sexting and Other Silly Things” to any local group or organization willing to host a social media safety seminar.
To contact Carol O’Brien, send email to [email protected].