The Alhambra Unified School District hosted Oct. 9 a social media safety workshop in the Alhambra High School auditorium, speaking to dozens of parents and students about digital safety.
Teenagers often participate in dangerous online activities, such as sexting – the sending of nude photos, said Sarah Dalton, communications and outreach specialist for the Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit at the California Office of the Attorney General. The purpose of the workshop was to help parents and students recognize those dangerous situations and how to avoid them.
“We’re here to empower parents so that you can talk to your kids about what they’re doing online. So you can steer them and be proud of who they are online, and support them in protecting their personal information online,” Dalton said.
Dalton listed eight internet safety rules in her presentation:
- Follow your family’s rules about when and where to use the internet.
- Understand a website’s rules, and know how to flag other users for misbehavior.
- Recognize “red flags,” including someone asking you personal questions online such as your name and address.
- Never post your name, your school’s name, your age, your phone number, your email, or home address.
- Never send pictures to people you don’t know.
- Keep passwords private (except from your parents).
- Never open a message from someone you don’t know (including friends of friends); it may contain a virus that can harm your computer.
- Immediately tell an adult if something mean or creepy happens when you are online.
Dalton noted the dangers of mobile applications such as Snapchat, a photo messaging service that reportedly deletes messages up to 10 seconds after being viewed. In early October, hackers and third-party clients released more than 100,000 Snapchat user photos, including those of nude minors, reports the Business Insider.
“[Users] think that the pictures they send disappear. They do not. And that’s part of the lesson you can teach them," Dalton said, addressing parents. “You don’t need to know about all the different apps to help kids stay safe online.”
Parents can take action if their child has been a victim of a nude photo leak, said Azusa Police Officer Mike Bires. Several laws can provide parents and teens protection, including the “Revenge Porn Law” — which punishes those who share nude photos of their ex-partners online — and child pornography laws prohibiting adults and minors from possessing underage nude photos.
Cyberbullying is also a serious problem for teenagers, Bires said. The officer said the best way to handle a bully is to refrain from engaging with them before asking a parent, school counselor, or police officer for help. Bires also said that deleting social media accounts may make the situation worse.
“If there’s a problem on Facebook, stay on Facebook. Running or hiding, they’ll find you,” Bires said, adding that bullies often create fake social media accounts to defame victims.
Dr. Laurel Bear, director of Student Services at Alhambra Unified School District, encouraged parents to contact school administrators if their child experiences any form of bullying, both on and offline. “Alhambra school district is very committed on intervening in any behavior that disrupts the child from coming to school and feeling supported and safe, attending school and feeling supported and safe, and while going home from school and feeling supported and safe," Bear said.
Bear is also the director of Gateway to Success, the district's mental health and intervention program. Speakers from Gateway to Success encouraged parents to keep an open line of communication with their children, document instances of bullying by writing down what happened and when it occurred, and to seek mediation instead of encouraging any type of confrontation.