The impact of social media on today’s teens

Captain Jim Lester talked with RBMS 7th graders recently in hopes of educating them how to be safe on the internet. Some were shocked to learn that inappropriate behavior, bullying, and harassment can be tracked online by the police...even if it is deleted off of their device. Photo by Kim Demory

Just about every seventh grader at Robert Blue Middle School admitted they use some form of social media on a regular basis. Snapchat is one of their top choices. Why? Sure, there are fun photo features, you can chat quickly and easily with friends...but the #1 reason they said they liked it so much is because what they post disappears - it’s gone in 30 seconds.

Or so they thought - until Captain Jim Lester of the Wright County Sheriff’s Department and the Iowa Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force told them differently when he visited their classroom recently. Anyone who sees your Snapchat, whether you’ve made it public or sent it directly to a specific person, can screenshot your post. The students acknowledged they knew this could happen but didn’t really seemed too concerned. Then he gave them another scenario to think about.

What if someone was standing behind the recipient of your message - and they snap a picture of what you sent and the person reading it? They now have access to share something you thought was private without you ever knowing it. That startled the seventh graders a bit. But what really caught their attention was a third scenario - Even if nobody screenshots your post, and it’s supposedly gone forever if you sent it on Snapchat - if they need to, the police can find it. If you took a picture and sent it and then deleted it from your phone... the police can most likely find it. If you send a threatening message and then delete it...the police can find it. That goes for any form of social media you use be it Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram...any of them.

“Once you put it on the internet, it’s out there,” Lester told the young social media users. “I can’t tell you enough how serious this is and I want you to know that it really does happen. It happens every day...kids get in trouble because they make a mistake (with what they post).”

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