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Officer Talks Dangers Of Picture Messaging

March 23, 2012

Staff photo/Angie Klosterman: Deputy Sam Blank speaks to students in Monica VanderHorst's health class about the dangers of sexting and social media on Thursday.

ST. MARYS — The local DARE deputy spoke with high school students to speak with them about the dangers of sexting and being too liberal with their personal information on the Internet, such as on social media sites.

“It’s a serious problem across the United States, and it is a problem here in St. Marys,” Memorial High School teacher Monica VanderHorst said to her health students about sexting.

Blank noted he visits all the schools in Auglaize County.

“I am all about proactive policing,” Blank said. “I try to take care of a problem before it starts.”

He began his presentation by stating, “You never know who you’re talking to on the Internet,” and encouraged the students to watch out for siblings or parents who are not familiar with using computers.

“With Internet and Facebook and all these other social media sites and all the other scams out there,” Blank said, noting specific scams. “Any type of app or thing you download on Facebook  — asks for allowing access. Basically, they’re saying, if you want this thing to work on Facebook, they want it all — they want to sell that stuff for research purposes ... You’ve got to understand when you’re clicking that button, you’re giving everything you’ve got.”

Blank also spoke on phishing and computer viruses.

“In law enforcement, there are so many things we’re dealing with with computers,” he said.

Next, Blank talked about cell phone security, such as GPS technology on phones now and how there are tools, such as Facebook’s Check-In option, that lets people know where a person is if they update their phone. He also noted texting while driving and picture messaging.

“People are sending out inappropriate photos, nude photos, and you can get into a lot of trouble,” he said.

“It seems like more people are doing this or more people are getting caught doing this.”

Blank noted it is illegal to send “nasty, threatening messages or phone calls” when that person is told to stop and continues — being charged with telecommunications harassment.

“When you have something illegal on your phone, such as a nude picture, sexting picture, that is illegal, and you could get in trouble for that,” Blank said, noting the possibility a person has of someone else seeing that nude picture, whether that phone is dropped and someone else picks it up or through theft.

Sexting, he noted, is when a person takes sexually explicit pictures of him or herself and forwards it to other students through their cell phone or other digital device that can take pictures.

Blank stressed sexting is illegal — and when the subjects are younger than 18, it is considered child pornography.

“It’s illegal, don’t send or take any nude photos of you or someone else, and if you do and you pass them on to someone else, you could be charged,” Blank said. “Even if someone forwards you a nude photo of somebody, you could be charged. If you have it on your phone, you’re in possession of child pornography, that’s a pretty serious charge.”

Blank noted sexting can cause emotional and reputational damage, and the photos can be distributed and archived online for people to search for forever or stored on some sort of device, such as a jump drive.

“One mistake you made, you may hear about it when you’re 50,” he said.

In many cases, kids are responding to peer pressure in a form of cyberbullying or pressure from a boyfriend or girlfriend, Blank said of sexting.

“If somebody cares about you truthfully, they’re not going to ask you to do something that’s illegal,” he said.

Blank also told students to be cautious about what they put on Facebook sites — such as inappropriate, unflattering photos, photos of them in partaking in reckless behaviors — because they will be visible, especially to future employers.

“You’ve got to think of Facebook as like a snapshot of your life and who you are and what you want people to see,” he said. “What everybody can see, not just your friends, but what you want the whole world to see.”

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