CARLSBAD — A teenager who receives 10, 20 or 30 text messages within one hour from a partner who wants to know where they are and what they are doing, is a victim of cyber bullying in a relationship, according to a cyber educator at Vista Community Clinic.
The presentation There’s no Hiding in Cyberspace was held at 6 p.m. Feb. 10 at Valley Middle School for parents, and cyber educator Jon Moffat shared topics on a large screen that ranged from “sexting,” to online privacy measures and cyber bullying.
The event was held as an information session to help bridge the technology gap between parents and their teenagers.
“One-in-four teens say they have been called names, harassed or put down by their partner through cell phones and texting,” Moffat said.
Another 10 percent of teenagers aged 13 to 19 have sent nude or semi-nude photos of themselves electronically, while 29 percent had received a nude or semi-nude photo that was meant to be private but was shared with them, he said.
The technology abuse study that Moffat cited showed that more than half of the teenagers had sent sexually explicit text messages.
“In California, sexting can result in pornography charges,” he said.
Sexting is handled case-by-case, but a person can even be charged if their face is not showing, Moffat said.
Aside from potential legal issues that can arise from sexting, the cell phone opens the door for dangers to enter.
Moffat said that a sixth-grader told him that she was getting pictures sent to her phone from a guy who said he went to her school.
The pictures were of a male in the shower, he said.
“Turns out, it was a creeper guy trying to get to know her,” Moffat said.
A fairly easy-to-remember and simple rule that parents can teach kids is for them not to let a stranger borrow their phone.
Moffat borrowed a phone from an audience member and showed how simple it was for a predator to gain future access to a child by pretending he needed to make a phone call with their phone.
The predator approaches a child and asks to use his or her phone, and he then calls his own number, which records the caller ID from the phone he just used, Moffat said.
The dangers associated with posting pictures online was also addressed, and Moffat gave an example of how during one of his former student-oriented cyber workshops a girl discovered she was being impersonated online.
Moffat recommended that parents use a photo tag remover program to prevent pictures uploaded to the Internet from being copied.
The website www.tineye.com uses a reverse image search to locate places online that a photo is being used.
“It will tell me everywhere on the Internet the photo is being used,” Moffat said.
The popular social networking site Facebook has an option for others to “tag” a person’s photo, which Moffat said could be prevented by customizing the profile settings for the account to “only me.”
When a photo is tagged, it has been shared.
“Don’t let anyone tag your photos,” he said.
His student had tried the reverse image search during the former workshop, and found that a strange man on an electronic bulletin board was using her photo and pretending to be her.
Nothing online is secret, and by searching someone’s screen name a lot of personal information can be revealed.
“Every application you accept has access to your personal information,” he said.
Applications can include online games such as Farmville, for example, he said.
One way people can add security to their information and not be found so easily is to make sure that they have no check mark next to “enable public search” on their social networking account.
Moffat said that kids who use social networking sites should never provide their first and last name or their parents’ names.
He encourages kids to not use the social networking sites because 20 percent of users are not using them properly.
But for those who are going to be online and exposed to the world, Moffat said they should be aware of the risks.
“It’s OK to share your life, but just remember you’re sharing your life with everyone on the planet,” he said.
Drew Nipper and his wife, Tammy, both attended the event, and Tammy Nipper said it was her second time coming.
She said she was glad to learn how to set up her online social networking account and make it more private.
Drew Nipper said he enjoyed learning how to help his child to know what cyber bullying is.
During the session held at Valley Middle School, Moffat told the parent attendees that when a child asks for help from being cyber-bullied, that parents should listen, learn and have a plan of action.
Questions to ask the child include what was said, how long has it been going on and have online threats been accompanied by real-life threats?
Cyber abuse can vary from someone who is pretending to be someone else online, to intentional cyber bullying where the perpetrator sends threatening messages to a person through texts or e-mails.
Intentional bullying also happens if a person changes a picture of someone else online to make it embarrass that person or threaten someone else with it.
Posting or forwarding private messages through e-mail with the intent to embarrass someone is also another form of cyber bullying, Moffat said.
Studies have shown that most cyber bullying happens on a Saturday night, he said.
A real-life threat might be in the form of a text message, posting online in a chat room or on a social networking site that says something like, “when you come to school on Monday, I’m going to kick your butt,” he said.
If the threat is from a schoolmate, then the school can become involved, he said.
To save and report an online cyber bully (using Windows) go to “Print Screen,” open a new e-mail or word processing document page, then copy and paste the proof of bullying to that page.
If using a Mac, open “Grab,” which is in Utilities in the Applications folder.
Next, choose “Capture,” then “Screen” and click outside of the window when the Screen Grab dialogue opens.