Fort Dodge, Iowa
Lindsay Mutchler, Staff Writer
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 30, 2011
DCI Preps Kids on Innocence in Online World
Megan Stein, a senior at St. Edmond Catholic School, uses social networking sites, like Facebook.
Similar to many teenagers, she can keep in touch with friends, update them on what she's doing and post photos. However, Stein also ensures the information she posts doesn't get into the wrong hands.
"I go through my friends and edit the list from time to time," Stein said. She has around 250 friends, and like her classmate Kristen Kramer, Stein has privacy shields enabled, she said.
This means only the people she's accepted as her friends can see her photos, posts, and personal information. Stein also doesn't accept a friend request from someone she doesn't know.
She is taking the same precautions law enforcement wants all youth to take when using popular social media websites.
John Quinn, the Director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, and DCI Special Agent Matt Sauer presented a program on Internet safety at St. Edmond school Friday morning for students in grades six through twelve.
"We want to heighten your awareness about the dangers on the Internet," Quinn said. "The Internet is a fantastic device. I love it. I support it. I use it on a daily basis. The bottom line is it comes down to one thing: how we utilize that technology. It comes down to character."
Quinn spoke about Internet predators that use fake names, photos, and biographies to lure young people into relationships.
"Teens are the target," Quinn said. "You are the food in the water, and the sharks want to get you."
He shared a humorous "Saturday Night Live" skit to highlight the real danger in which there is no way to police social networking sites. Through false photos and identities predators foster a relationship with youth online, and the ultimate goal is to meet and harm them.
So how can people protect themselves from stalkers or predators?
"Don't share too much information online," Sauer said. By posting your full name, address, date of birth, and cell phone number, you've made yourself a prime target for a potential predator who now knows where you live, how old you are, and how to contact you.
Sauer offered these tips:
Enable the privacy options of the site. For example, on Facebook, change the privacy settings on your profile from default-which shares your entire page and information with everyone-to friends only. That allows you to control who can see your photos and information, such as your address.
Disable the location feature on the social networks or your Smartphone.
Be wary of what you post online. It could affect your future as colleges and potential employers are checking out social network pages of potential students and employees.
Have a strong password using a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
Sauer also encourage students to think twice before sending mean text messages or posting hurtful messages on a person's social network page.
"You don't know what you're sending that text out how people feel or what's going on in their life," Sauer said. Teenagers have committed suicide when on the receiving end of harassing posts and messages.
The bottom line message was to use common sense when enjoying the Internet.
"Just be careful and take steps to protect yourself," Sauer said.