The Dangers of Social Media You and Your Kids Need To Know
Social media platforms are a resource for information, a way to communicate digitally with family and friends and a place to share with others what's going on in your life.
It becomes a place of annoyance or fear when people misuse it to harm others.
Think of social media like a hammer, screwdriver or wrench in a toolbox that's used to fix things or make them better.
When someone misuses one of these tools, people get hurt.
It's not always the social media platform, it's whose behind the computer screen.
In the digital age, there are constant dangers we need to be aware of and avoid.
Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer and his team have been meeting with middle and high school students of late to share with them how to properly use social media and what not to do or say on social media.
All the tips he shared with us can apply to both youth and adults.
"The things you put out on the internet are going to be out there forever," Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer said.
Here are some of the dangers on social media and what to do to stop them.
Facebook: Facebook is a great resource for information and a way to share news of a newborn baby or an engagement.
It becomes a place of trouble when users are ridiculed for their opinion or people threaten one another.
"People feel more free to share controversial opinions which they have every right to do but there are sometimes comments that are a little though provoking and scary," Billhimer said. "People have a disconnect, I believe, about what they write on the internet and what they comment on. Even though their name might be next to their comment, they still feel a certain sense of anonymity when they write things on the internet."
Prosecutor Billhimer says everyone has freedom of speech but when you threaten someone or something, you'll find yourself in trouble.
"When you make a terroristic threat or you threaten a person or you try to intimidate someone based on a protected class in terms of a bias intimidation, we look at all that," Billhimer said. "We have a high tech crimes unit that's very active and spend a lot of time monitoring some of the distasteful things that people say."
Billhimer says distasteful is legal but personal threats and bias intimidation could have you facing charges.
Snapchat: Snapchat, more than other apps, is causing particular concern for law enforcement.
Prosecutor Billhimer says users think that once they post something, it'll disappear but that's not the case because whatever you post can be screenshot by another user and it's no longer your property.
"Boyfriend-girlfriend send a picture that they probably shouldn't send, then they breakup, boyfriend or girlfriend still has the picture and it gets airdropped in the middle of school and we have a bullying situation," Billhimer said.
The sharing of that picture could also be a violation of the law depending on its nature and the age of who is in the photo.
"It could be a distribution of child pornography depending on the persons age," Billhimer said.
There's another concern within Snapchat which is the YOLO app which allows users to ask and answer questions anonymously.
"It's very similar to an Instagram story with the question sticker," Billhimer said. "The problem with that is that once YOLO is on there, you can get anonymous private messages."
He says parents need to be aware of what's on their child's Snapchat app.
Cybertracking: Prosecutor Billhimer says their high tech crime unit is keeping an eye out for threatening behavior on social media, especially on Snapchat.
"Kids think that once it's deleted on Snapchat that we can't find it," Billhimer said. "In Ocean County we have the only state accredited high tech crime unit and they can find anything that's ever been on your phone even if it's been deleted."
Billhimer says they don't have the right to go into your phone unless they suspect a crime has been committed but warns everyone that they're keeping an eye out for threats.
"If there is a threat on Snapchat, we'll find it," Billhimer said.
Cyberbullying: Saying something mean to somebody on social media is the same as saying it to their face.
In addition to their high tech crimes unit, Prosecutor Billhimer says they also investigate reports that are submitted to law enforcement.
"If somebody is bullying you through social media, you need to let somebody know," Billhimer said. "Kids share so much of their lives on social media that they don't want to come forward when it goes south on them and we want to let them know that we are here for them."
Parents: A child, pre-teen, teenager will be sneaky at times to try and deceive others including their parents from what they're doing on social media and it could lead them into trouble.
Perhaps one of the most deceptive ways kids are trying to throw one over on their parents is by using what's known as a second calculator app.
"There are certain apps that should never be on a child's phone such as a second calculator app," Billhimer said. "There is an app out there that looks like a calculator and it's a secret app where you can hide videos, files, browser history and put it all into a calculator app."
Billhimer suggests looking through your child's phone and see if there's more than one calculator app.
If there is, tap on both to determine which is carrying secret files.
Your Behavior: Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer and his team have tried several different campaigns to encourage healthier and kinder behavior towards yourself and others. The main message within goes back about 2,000 years to the Golden Rule...treat others the way you yourself would like to be treated or "Do to others whatever you would have them do to you" - USCCB.
For More on Social Media Dangers with Prosecutor Billhimer.....