Thursday, September 26, 2013
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson spoke to Rollings Middle School of the Arts students on Tuesday about the peril of the Internet.
The South Carolina Internet Crimes Against Children task force is run through Wilson’s office. He stated that his goal is not only to protect the children from predators, but to protect them from themselves as well.
“The internet is like a chainsaw,” he said. “If you know how to use it, it can do great things and be so helpful. If it gets into the wrong hands however, it can be very harmful.”
Wilson gave way to Brooke Oberwetter who works with Facebook external affairs. Facebook is a “real name” social media site, disallowing cyber-bullies to hide in anonymity. Oberwetter spoke of the importance of understanding their privacy settings and the differences that sending reports to Facebook can have.
“If you see someone saying malicious things, tell us,” she told the children. “We can stop it from spreading and if it is approaching harassment, we will alert the authorities and giftwrap a case to them.”
She said that reporting inappropriate posts and pictures is helpful to the company as they cannot patrol the over 1 billion profiles without it. Oberwetter also encouraged students to try and mediate a situation with a third party such as a friend if they can. If they feel as if they are in actual danger, she told the students to immediately call 911.
As far as sexually explicit pictures are concerned, both speakers warned the students about the consequences.
“If you take a picture, even of yourself, that’s manufacturing child pornography and is a felony,” Wilson said. “If you send or forward an explicit picture to someone then that is distribution of child pornography, another felony.”
Oberwetter drew laughter and groans of understanding when she relayed an analogy to the students about the dangers.
“Imagine the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you,” she said. “Now imagine that you took a picture of that, printed out a bunch of copies and stapled them to every telephone pole from here to the ocean. That’s what you’re doing.”
Students were also cautioned about Facebook’s 1 billion dollar acquisition, Instagram. Students who wish to promote their music, acting or art should make one account for that and one for their family and friends.
Wilson said that while there are potential financial, physical and emotional dangers on the Internet, children can prevent them by being careful of what they tell the world online.
“Be safe, be responsible.”