31 May, 2012

So Glad I'm not a Parent - My Nerves couldn't cope!

Police Academy is drawing to an end. Next week is fire arms, when we actually get to shoot tasers, pistols, and rifles. That's the fun part. Last night was a lot less light hearted. 

Our class was given by the School Resources Officer (SRO). As his title implies, he liaises between the police department and all the town schools, both public and private. And frankly, after hearing him, I'm thankful I don't have kids because I'd never have a peaceful moment. 

It's not just incidents like Columbine, although every school has a lockdown plan and annual drills. It's also technology. You may not know a lot about sexting, but every teenager( and probably a lot of preteens) does. Check out www.sextingpics.com - that's where the angry ex-friend/boyfriend/girlfriend posts the pictures, by area code, for everyone to see. Believe me, you don't want to find your daughter's picture on this site. And once it's up, it's there forever. 

Next on the worry list: pedophiles. It's terrifying how easily predators can find a child. The SRO took us from a pretty vanilla FaceBook page, one that listed only a screen name and a state, and demonstrated how, in a few simple steps, a predator can friend and identify a person if the page is not "locked down". And we all know how hard FaceBook makes it to secure your information. The predator doesn't even have to ask any leading questions like "where do you live" or "what school do you go to." All he has to ask is: what's your school mascot, go to Google and type in: high school mascot, [mascot], and the state from your child's FB page. Bingo, he's got a town and can keep narrowing down his search. We also learned the tricks predators use to make sure they're not chatting with a cop.

Did you know that iPhones (and many other smart phones) embed GPS information into photos taken with the phone? And that there is free downloadable software that can easily read that info from any web site where the photo is posted and bring up an image of the location where it was taken, i.e. your house? So from a picture of your cat or a flower in your yard, someone can find your house. Scared yet? 

In kindergarten, first and second grades, the SRO appears only as "Officer Friendly," but by fourth grade, he is teaching kids internet/phone safety. The dangers of sexting are addressed in 6th grade (including the impact it can have on the rest of your life), along with drugs, alcohol, and the other obvious dangers of being a teenager. This message is repeated in middle and high school. 

There are also programs for parents: what to look out for, how pedophiles "groom" their victims (scary stuff), and the tools available to safeguard against predators. 

I don't know if I'll use any of this information in a mystery any time soon, but I have lots of notes on the juvenile justice system, the differences between juvenile and adult law, rights and punishments, and anecdotes which may come in handy!

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, there are some real creeps out there. The ease with which they can obtain information about everyone is frightening. There's also a huge gap between what children experience and what parents think think they know about their own children.

    Establish an open conversation with your children, so they know you're their friend. Check in with them every now and then. Involve yourself in their lives. Show them you're interested in their world. Be their advocate when they need you.

    They'll respond by letting you in on what's happening with them. Active love for your children beats the heck out of allowing information like this terrify you.