Mt. Pleasant students, faculty warned of 'darker side to technology'
A retired deputy chief with the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office this week shared information that may help keep children and adults safe when using technology in its various forms within the Mt. Pleasant Area School District.
James Dill, who is currently the president of Innovative Technology & Investigative Solutions, presented the “Darker Side of Technology” at the district's junior-senior high school auditorium.
Earlier that day, he shared the same presentation with junior high school students and the faculty of the junior and senior high school.
Norvelt District Judge Roger F. Eckels, who is also a member of the Mt. Pleasant Area Drug Awareness Committee, last saw the presentation roughly one year ago, he said.
However, Eckels said he was amazed to discover what was added to the presentation in a 12-month span regarding the dangers technology can bring.
“We owe it to ourselves to educate ourselves to protect our children,” said Eckels, adding that the committee sponsored Dill to speak.
Dill covered such topics as cell phones, sexting and “sextortion.”
Dill said the cellphones, especially the smart phones, have replaced so many tools as people have begun storing addresses and phone numbers, photos and videos, emails, calendars and other information that thieves can potentially sell.
“If there's one thing you get out of this tonight, please password protect your phone,” Dill said. “What can I learn about you from your cell phone?”
While smart phones have made it easier for burglars, stalkers and child predators to find their victims, a growing demographic is also becoming more vulnerable with such technology.
“More kids have cellphones now than ever before,” said Dill, citing surveys that show 83 percent of middle school children have cellphones and a majority of those children have smart phones, which are essentially computers.
Be it a cellphone, an electronic tablet or a computer, more children are becoming victims and perpetrators of cyber-bullying and sexting.
“One out of five kids has sent nude or semi-nude photos of themselves,” said Dill of sexting.
“If you think it's not a problem in your school, you're wrong,” he said.
Dill said sexting is texting gone wrong, as it normally starts with a teen taking such a picture of themselves and sending it to someone they're dating. When the relationship ends, however, that photo is then passed around and shared, causing humiliation, which has led to suicide in some incidents.
“They (children) don't look at the long-term consequences,” Dill said. “It can dramatically damage one's life and self esteem.”
A newer offspring of sexting is sextortion. This occurs when a predator contacts a teenager, or even an adult, gains their trust, and has them send a semi-nude photo or a photo of them in their underwear, Dill said. The predator then tells the targeted person to send a nude photo or the first photo will be sent to their family, their classmates, their teachers, their co-workers or their bosses.
Dill said the sextortionists will ultimately blackmail their victims into performing sex acts on them.
“The key is parental involvement,” said Dill, adding that parents should educate their children regarding the harm sexting could cause.
He added that it is a crime, even if a teen sends a photo of themselves, and they could be charged as a sexual predator if caught doing it more than once. “If you hear about this, try to get them (the children) help,” Dill said.
Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or firstname.lastname@example.org.