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Pennsylvania AG at Sewickley event: Vigilance crucial with teens on social media

| Wednesday, April 9, 2014, 1:06 p.m.

State Attorney General Kathleen Kane said she was shocked to read what her two sons were privately messaging after requesting passwords to their accounts.

“The text messages were ridiculous,” Kane told a handful of parents at a social media forum on Friday in the Quaker Valley Middle School auditorium. “It was back and forth. There was no decency.”

Kane took the phones away from her 13- and 11-year-old for a month and established household privacy and password rules for social media. Every now and again, she checks to make sure their passwords haven't changed, and cautions other parents to remain vigilant too.

“It can happen anywhere,” Kane said. “Don't make the mistake I made. Don't think it's not going to be your son or your daughter.”

The Social Media Awareness forum, organized by state Sen. Matt Smith, (D-Mt. Lebanon), focused on cyber safety, informing parents of the latest social media platforms and tips to monitor online activity. The discussion included panelists Anthony Marmo, deputy attorney general; Sewickley police Sgt. Dave Mazza; and Danielle Schultz, Quaker Valley Middle School counselor.

Smith said the forum was important to discuss the steps parents can take to protect their children.

“I am the parent of three small children — 6, 4 and 2. They're on iPhones; they're on iPads. They know how to work a lot of the equipment even better than my wife and I do in certain occasions.”

Kane said her office has cross-trained agents and invested in software that gets into the programs child predators are using. She said the unit identified 2,800 child predators living in Pennsylvania, many of whom are considered “travelers” who contact children online and arrange to meet them somewhere.

Philip Little, education and outreach specialist with the Attorney General's office, guided parents through the five most popular social sites and urged them to learn the passwords to their children's accounts.

“If something were to happen to your child, and your child would go missing, in law enforcement we have to go through the correct legal channels. It may take at least 48 hours or longer for us to gain access,” Little said.

Technology is changing almost daily, and Kane said it's frightening what can happen to children.

“Education is the cornerstone of making sure crime doesn't happen,” Kane said.

Larissa Dudkiewicz is a contributing writing for Trib Total Media.

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