NEWTON/KINGSTON —Social media is a given for most of us, and especially for children. It gives a lot of connectedness and satisfaction…and there are risks when not used thoughtfully.
On January 13, the Sanborn Regional School District hosted a presentation by Lieutenant John Peracchi, Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force Commander for New Hampshire and members of his team on the risks and all-too-frequent results for kids using social media, and how to mediate them as parents.
They began by talking about social media sites, then discussed risky behavior by kids, and the levels of a threat they see, symptoms that your child is at risk, statistics on sex crimes against children, and what you can do about helping your children stay safe.
Sex crimes today don’t start with a spontaneous drive-by grab. They begin, they said, with the child as the source, posting too much personal information. Predators search and find children who expose needs and wants they can exploit. Repeated by the presenters, over and over, is to teach your children, and be an example to them, that what you post online NEVER goes away. THINK about what you post.
Sexting, or posting inappropriate pictures, is done by 2.5% of all children in New Hampshire, as probably under-self-reported, they said. Also reported is that 7% receive sexting from others. 90% of males share sexting, even when they claim they won’t. Few girls do, until there is a breakup, and then sharing gets to almost 100%. It is close to a guarantee that sexually explicit photos shared on the internet will be widely distributed at some point.
The next threat level after the loss of privacy is cyberbullying, or threatening to widely distribute photos and videos unless more are given.
Solicitation or trafficking online is the next level. Today 1 in 5 kids in NH are solicited online. Most consider it part of the norm, do not perceive it as a threat and ignore it.
Then it goes further for 1 in 25 children. They are subjected to aggressive sexual solicitation. 3 hours after a child has been taken, 75% of them will be dead.
The statistics are that 75% of people who look at child pornography online actually touch at least one child, the presenters reported. They get sixty tips every week in New Hampshire and execute one search warrant a week. They are limited by available officers to execute more.
When asked, what is the best online monitoring service for your kids, they gave the answer “you”. Pick your battles, intrude on your children’s social media, know their sites and passwords, and trust your instincts was the advice given. You can check online activity on your account for data usage, phone numbers, etc.
Indicators are many, including withdrawal, reluctance to engage with family and friends, receiving gifts, minimizing screens.