[KHTS] – Teens, sexting, cyberbullying and social media were the topics discussed with parents and Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station officials at Santa Clarita City Hall on Wednesday.
And the numbers are staggering.
The average teen sends about 50 text messages per day. More than 1 in 5 high school students take part in sexting, or sending sexually explicit messages — and the number rises to 1 in 3 by the time those same students are legally adults atcollege a few years later.
But the consequences of a bad choice can last much longer.
“Once you hit send, there are no take-backs,” said Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Deputy Josh Dubin, discussing the reality of social media and the potentially harmful choices children can make.
As Dubin told parents about the impact social media has on their children’s lives, mothers whispered to each other, fathers quietly talked among themselves and others were speechless.
Parents asked questions about spoofing, hidden phone activity and passwords at Wednesday’s meeting in City Hall’s Council Chambers, which was coordinated by the city of Santa Clarita and the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.
Dubin, who works in the station’s Crime Prevention Unit and handles a lot of the station’s community outreach, spoke to about 100 parents on what they should look out for in regard to sexting, social media use, cyber bullying and other online activity.
The most important premise of his presentation, which included a talk from Detective Robert Uribe of the Sheriff’s Department’s Special Victims Bureau, contained two main principles, he said.
“Principle No. 1, you are the parents, you pay the bill, you own the phone, tablet or computer, and therefore you have the right and the responsibility to be a responsible watchdog,” Dubin said. “Principle No. 2: Get out of denial and learn to check up on your kids.”
A growing number of the cases in the Special Victims Bureau involving children sending inappropriate messages via electronic devices, Uribe said.
“About 15 percent to 20 percent of our cases now include sexting of one type or another,” Uribe said. And even when a teen thinks something has been deleted, law enforcement officials can usually find the information.
“We have a capability of retrieving them even after they’ve been deleted,” Uribe said, mentioning the Sheriff’s Department ownership of a Cellebrite machine. The machines, which can unlock electronic passwords and recover deleted information, are only sold to law enforcement agencies due to legal concerns and cost approximately $10,000, according to a Cellebrite representative.
Another legitimate concern is the misleading identities one can create online, Uribe said.
“You don’t know who you’re sharing the information with or who you’re sending the picture to,” he said, mentioning a recent case where a suspect posed as a teenage girl to solicit dozens of nude pictures from teenage boys.
Spoofing, which one mother asked about, is the practice of using a website to generate a call or a text from a fake number and is considered a form of identity theft, Uribe said.
One father who asked how he should get his child’s passwords if the child doesn’t want to relinquish them, and Dubin suggested the parent offer an ultimatum: either the child gives up the password or the device, which was met by applause from the crowd.
After the presentation, Dubin and Janine Prado, a community services administrator for the city of Santa Clarita, opened the floor for parents, who asked questions for more than an hour.
Near the end, one parent was encouraged and hopeful more parents would make the effort to get involved and find out the information. With children, it’s a little bit easier to keep an eye on them if there’s consistency.
“If we’re all doing it,” she said, “then there’s more of an expectation.”