The gasps were audible from the small crowd of concerned parents in the auditorium.
When Det. Randy Norton of the DRPS Sexual Assault Unit (SAU) demonstrated, online and in real time, how long it took for grown men to start a conversation with a fictional 14-year-old girl in a chat room, you could sense the utter shock ripple through the audience.
It took only a few seconds for men – complete strangers – to strike up a conversation with the young girl. These men, many of whom identified themselves as 27 year-olds (but who knows?), asked her if she had a web camera so they could see what she looked like. They asked her where she lived. They sent links that could lead to potentially pornographic pictures of themselves.
Sixty nine per cent of teens get personal messages online from people they don’t know and they tend not to trust or tell adults about this fact.
It was one of many shocks for parents, caregivers and even some teenagers who attended the Internet Safety seminar held by the Durham District School Board at J. Clarke Richardson High School in Ajax.
Another shock: How easy it was to infiltrate a Facebook page, acquire personal information about a young female and then Google Map an aerial photograph of her actual residence.
The key pieces of advice from Det. Norton and Det. Michelle Hoard of the SAU as the informative evening wrapped up:
• Talk to your kids – have a frank and open discussion without yelling or raising your voice. Get involved in their online habits and keep Internet-capable computers in central, busy rooms of the house
• Log the chats your children are involved in, so there is a record of bullying, threatening and other criminal acts
• If a boyfriend receives a compromising photo of his 14-year-old girlfriend and passes it to another friend, he could be charged criminally with possession and distribution of child pornography
• Some employers now ask job applicants to open their social media pages to determine if they are suitable employees
• GPS co-ordinates are embedded in some pictures online and can be opened to determine the location of where the picture was taken
• Once a compromising photograph is posted online and shared, there really is no way to get it back. It will live on servers around the world forever.
The two seasoned investigators also left parents with a host of on line resources available to learn more about the potential perils of the “lawless Internet:”
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J. Clarke Richardson Principal Addresses Crowd (JPG file, 169.2K bytes)
Det. Norton Speaking About Internet Safety (JPG file, 123.9K bytes)