By Teri Vance
To open his presentation, Lt. Ray Spencer shared the story of 14-year-old Amanda Todd. He showed a video she made and posted to her Youtube account.
From her posts, she met a 14-year-old boy who instantly showered her with compliments. He then asked her for topless photos and, after a year of coercion, she relented. Using that photo, he blackmailed her to send him more graphic content. When she refused, he spread the picture around social media and sent it to people in her school.
As a result, she was taunted and bullied relentlessly, even after switching schools. Finally, she killed herself.
It turned out, Spencer said, the 14-year-old boy was an adult man in Ireland who had lured chil-dren around the world into similar traps.
“We have cases like this literally several times a week,” he said. “It’s a very common case where people share photos they think will never be shared again. But how long before it’s shared with everyone? Fortunately they don’t always end as tragically as Amanda Todd, but it could happen to anyone for just a couple of small mistakes.”
Spencer, the commander of the vice and sex trafficking sections with the Las Vegas Metro Po-lice Department, warned of the dangers of the Internet in his “Dark Side of Social Media” presentation at the Brewery Arts Center on Tuesday evening. The presentation was put on through the Sierra Nevada Forums in conjunction with Partnership Carson City.
Spencer gave tips for parents and guardians to keep themselves and their families out of harm.
Perhaps the most pressing, he advised, is to turn off location mechanisms on the camera apps on cell phones.
He illustrated how the metadata from one photo can show exactly where it was taken — down to which room in the home — and the time.
“You’re all walking around with handheld computers that track everything you do,” Spencer said. “It’s very, very important that people, especially with the kids, are turning that thing off.”
Beyond that, he encouraged parents to be involved with their children’s Internet activity. He ad-vised them to be friends on social media platforms with their kids but to not interact with them there.
“Just sit back and listen and read what they’re doing,” he said. “There’s a lot you can learn that way.”
He warned parents to closely monitor apps like music.ly and kik and stay clear of others such as omegle, chat roulette and after school. There are also apps where other apps can be hidden.
“Be very, very cautious because they can communicate with pretty much anybody,” Spencer said.
He suggested children use KidRex.org rather than Google.
Of all the tips, he said, the most effective is to engage with children.
“There’s no fool-proof way,” he said. “You just have to get in there. Be aware.”
On the Web
Learn more about potentially dangerous apps at SafeSmartSocial.com.