Social media forum aims to educate in Hamilton County

(WISH Photo)

HAMILTON COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) – If you find it hard to keep up with your kids’ social media habits, you’re not alone.

It seems every time you learn how one app works, kids are on to yet another app you haven’t heard of yet.

The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office put on a Teen and Social Media forum Monday night, designed to educate both parents and their teens or pre-teens about the potential dangers of social media.

“There are millions of strangers out there that have instant access to your children through Facebook, and many many social media outlets,” said Hamilton County Sheriff Mark Bowen. “It’s important they understand that’s just as dangerous as strangers on the street.”

Detective Alex Petty investigates social media crimes, like cyberbullying, sexting, stalking, or sextortion. He says he’s seen a huge increase, everywhere, in the last few years. There are more than 100 cases reported annually in Hamilton County alone.

“Our world is changing, it’s changing rapidly, and we need to be aware,” said Petty.

Petty says parents have to be constantly looking over, and monitoring the social media their children are using. He says they also have to be familiar with the social media networks as well.

Petty allows his kids to have just two social media networks. He says he also has the passwords to them, and his family has a contract – about cell phone use. He recommends that to other parents, as well.

“I have a cell phone contract at home with my kids, and they follow it. We check their phones daily, and we know who their friends are,” said Petty.

Petty also showed parents some of the most dangerous apps your kids may have on their phone that you need to be aware of.

One is the site “Omegle.” The basic premise? You talk to strangers.

Another one? “” He says that’s more anonymous exchanges.

“Who knows whether your 12-year-old child is answering a question, on, from a 50-year-old guy in Chicago? They don’t know that,” Petty said.

Others Petty warns of–Snap Chat, Kik, Text Plus (a way for kids to text, if you don’t know about the app).

Mom Linda Thompson brought her children to the forum: ages 10, 12 and 14.

“They know more than we do. They learn from friends, they learn at school. Unless we’re constantly asking them, and snooping around, we wouldn’t have any idea: we wouldn’t find it ourselves,” said Thompson.

“I hope to learn to stay safe, and how to keep all the bad guys away,” said Cora Thompson, age 10.

“Parents have to stay up on that. It all starts with talking to your child,” said Petty. “Know who their friends are.”

Detective Petty says there are a lot of cell phone carriers that offer parental controls, and also software applications that let you see everything your kids are doing.

He also reminds teens, that what they do on social media, stays there forever. He says one in 10 college admissions officers check social media pages.

Also – a reminder to parents. Don’t post where you are – if you’re away from home. That’s just an invitation to thieves.

Here is Detective Petty’s list of eight potentially dangerous apps:

  • Creepy
  • Vine
  • Snap Chat
  • Kik
  • Pheed (livestream that can give away location as well)
  • Omegle (Talk to strangers)
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