LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Keeping your children safe can be difficult for parents in the digital age.
At 8 News Now, we want to make it part of our mission to help.
We’re launching “Cyber Safe Parent” a special bi-weekly series geared to inform and help families.
We begin the series with how a child’s life can change forever from simply hitting “send” on a text message.
Once they hit send it can be too late.
“If you wouldn’t share it with your Grandmother, you probably shouldn’t share it with someone else online,” Lt. Bryan Zink a police officer with the Clark County School District tells 8 News Now.
The issue, a kid or teen sends a questionable or inappropriate picture to a friend or partner.
“They think there’s no long-term consequence or side effects for what they send,” adds Lt. Allen Larsen with Metro Police.
The aftermath is when a relationship sours, that picture can be shared and sent far beyond the intended recipient.
“They’re now sending these inappropriate pictures to everybody they know, or maybe just to a couple of people, who spread it to everybody else, they get posted on social media,” says Lt. Larsen.
Before it’s down, screenshots are taken of the photo.
“It’s been shared 20, 30, 100 times,” adds Lt. Larsen.
“Once it is out there in Cyberspace, we all know it’s out there forever,” cautions Lt. Zink.
For a young person, the impact can be devastating.
“We’ve had teenagers in our office crying. They feel like their life is wrecked,” says Lt. Larsen.
Those that share the picture, are committing a felony.
“That person, or any other person that takes that photo and redistributes it online – that’s actually distribution of child pornography,” adds Lt. Larsen.
By communicating to parents directly on how to avoid this from happening to their children, the experts have a reminder to all parents. Your child’s phone is the parent’s phone.
“Unless your child has a job, and they’re paying for that cell phone service, and they’re paying for that cell phone – you own it – that’s your phone!” says Lt. Zink.
Other tips for parents include knowing your child’s passcode, passwords, taking the child’s phone to check it and looking at what has been deleted.
“I do a phone check, he knows that randomly I’m going to say, hey, give me your phone and I’m going to look on there,” Lt. Larsen adds.
Most importantly having a crucial conversation about the enormous downside of trusting another person with a compromising picture.
“If you’re a parent or a teenager who is watching – I really think it’s an important topic to address with your children and make sure they know this can have long-term consequences,” says Lt. Larsen.
Stacy Weir is a mother who says she has had talks with her child about the dangers that can lurk online.
I’ll talk to her about it, I tell her that there’s people out there that will say their one thing and they’re really another, so that she need to be careful,” she adds.
The lasting message from officials, on this ever-important topic:
“Just remind them – we really push our kids to be good citizens in the real world. We also need to do that in the virtual world, too,” says Lt. Zink.