A guide to cyber safety and responsible social networking strategies.
Today our children are using the internet and social media in almost every facet of their lives. The internet, mobile phones and computers are three of the biggest systems of communications which play a critical role in their daily activities and more importantly the development of their identities. While the internet may make our lives easier and is beneficial in many ways it also comes with many inherent dangers that as parents we must familiarize ourselves with to protect our children.
As a law enforcement agency we have seen a steady and disturbing increase in the number of investigations as a result of cyberbullying, digital bullying and sexting. We take these incidents very seriously because of the impact it can have on the lives of everyone involved. It is important to note that once images are transmitted they cannot be taken back and may be permanently accessible on the internet. They could harm a students’ ability to be committed to college, to be hired for a job and much more.
Unlike most other means of communication the internet and cell phones can provide anonymity in communication. Fake profiles and identities can be created to allow others to tease, intimidate and bully people on a number of social media platforms. What steps can parents take to prevent these types of incidents and what can they do if they occur? Communication with our children, and education in understanding how the internet and social media functions are two key components. I hope this newsletter provides a foundation for you to gain a better understanding of these issues and their importance in safeguarding our children from predators.
The Mahwah Police Department and Mahwah Municipal Alliance is pleased to announce a partnership with Valley Hospital in promoting a safe and healthy community. We look forward to working with Valley Hospital on a number of innovative programs in the future. Follow the Mahwah Municipal website www.mahwahalliance.org for future updates. Your feedback on our newsletters and programs is greatly appreciated.
James N. Batelli
Chief of Police , Mahwah Police Department
Why Do Teens Sext?
There are several reasons that teens sext. When it comes to boys sexting girls, 77% have said that they sext nude photos and sexually explicit photos to girls in order to get them in the mood for sex. When it comes to girls sexting boys, 40% have said that they did it as a joke, 34% have said that they did it to feel sexy, and 12% have said that they feel pressured to do it.
Why Is Sexting So Serious?
When teenagers do something wrong, it is typically because they do not understand the consequences and ramifications of their actions. This is true with sexting. When a teen boy or girl sends a nude or semi nude photo and sexually explicit messages, they believe that these messages will be for the receiver’s eyes only. This is not always true. Often times, when teen relationships fall apart, one or both teens will try to hurt their ex. One way that many teens will get back at each other is to use these sexts that were sent when things were good. Teens can send these sexually explicit photos and messages to classmates or post them on the internet. Many teens do not understand that once something is on the internet, these images are there forever. The information on the internet is there forever. Teens do not think of these things when they are sexting. They may have a great deal of trust during the relationship, which makes them feel that there is no danger in sending these messages. When these messages become public, it can be very embarrassing for the sender, and can cause long term effects.
SOCIAL MEDIA HAS BECOME THE NEW SCHOOL YARD FOR BULLIES
A Child May Be A Target of Cyberbullying If:
- Unexpectedly stops using their device(s)
- Appears nervous or jumpy when using their device(s)
- Appears uneasy about going to school or outside in general
- Appears to be angry, depressed, or frustrated after going online (including gaming)
- Is oversleeping or not sleeping enough
- Becomes abnormally withdrawn from usual friends and family members
- Shows increase or decrease in eating
- Seems regularly depressed
- Makes passing statements about suicide or the meaninglessness of life
- Loses interest in the things that mattered most to them
- Avoids discussions about what they are doing online
- Frequently calls or texts from school requesting to go home ill
- Desires to spend much more time with parents rather than peers
- Becomes unusually secretive, especially when it comes to online activities
Far Reaching Consequenses
While cyberbullying is a relatively new phenomenon, the consequences are far-reaching and with the advent of apps like Facebook, SnapChat, Twitter, etc., it’s becoming more prevalent than ever. Everyday over 150,000 kids nationwide stay home from school because of bullying; and it seems like every week there’s a story in the news about a child committing suicide because they were bullied, which is one too many. Victims may experience psychological and emotional damage, severe depression, anxiety, anger-and even suicidal behavior.