Our Turn: Internet safety, the dark side
Wednesday, Dec. 3, the 6-8th grade students from Northwoods Community Secondary School went to a presentation at James Williams Middle School. Mr. Eric Szatkowski, a special agent for Wisconsin’s Department of Justice/Division of Criminal Investigation, told us about what he does and talked about disrespect online. He works to stop crimes against children. While being undercover, he arrested 80 predators. He assumed an online fake identity to find the predators. The presentation that he shared with us was called, “The Real World of Social Media – Predators, Bullies, and Creepers”. This presentation talked about predators in the world and what they have done to children, the charges that follow, the dangers, and how people need to respect their fellow human beings because you would want to be respected in return. According to the presentation, sexual offenders can respond immediately and will say things and show you things that will make you want to trust them. These relationships can cause problems before you know it.
When you use technology, you basically sign a contract saying that you will respect others and yourself. We have so much technology at our fingertips that things can get very dangerous. When you share sexual messages with people, are provocative, a bully, share pornography, or do/say something that you would NEVER do in public or show/say to someone you trust, you are breaking the digital contract that you signed when you said that you were responsible enough to have your own technology. When we were in elementary school, we were warned about “Stranger Danger”. This presentation showed that you can meet predators everywhere not just in person. Young people can be very naive and they are easy to take advantage of. It is really easy to trick people online because internet sites don’t verify those using it and the predators and creepers out there know it. Some of the cases that he told us about were cases where parents were able to catch what was going on before a meeting was ever followed through with. This is a wonderful thing. Kids always think that their parents don’t trust them. That may be true in some cases, but most of the time they are just doing their number one job, protecting their children. Keep up the good work parents!
Predators and creepers can get a hold of children everywhere. Commonly used things are gaming systems and sites, social networks, and especially ‘Location-Based Social Networking Apps’. Some of the online social networks or multiplayer games that creepers used were “Tic Tac Toe” (Kindle Device – Not Captured), “Club Penguin”, “Skype”, “Facebook”, and other online gaming sites. If you want to protect the lives of other children, report creepers immediately otherwise this kind of thing might happen to you, your children, a good friend, anyone. All it takes for someone to be hurt like this is one contact. Don’t accept friend requests from anyone that you don’t know.
One thing that I learned was that 99% of creepers are male. For me it doesn’t matter whether they are male, female, undecided, black, white, whatever; in my opinion ALL sex offenders should be put in jail for life. There is no excuse for that kind of action. These creepers have destroyed and ruined the lives of many children. Young people are naive and will believe anything if it is what they want to hear. Embarrassment doesn’t help when you need to talk to an adult. You may be scared, but no matter how scared you may be, should you be more scared of the person sexually assaulting you, or the person/people that can help you?
I learned many things from this presentation, but I think that the most important thing is that sexual offenders are NOT just strangers, they can be people you know. You may think that you are safe and that there aren’t any registered sex offenders around you, but not all offenders have been arrested. If something like this happens to you or even if a relationship hasn’t gotten that far yet, but you are still worried, talk to your parents, talk to another adult, talk to a trusted sibling, talk to a friend, or call the police. Don’t let sex offenders get away because they may come back because they know that you are vulnerable. If you report a sex offender, you may save someone from having to go through the same things that you had to go through. Save a life by reporting a criminal.
Our Turn is a weekly column written by students from Northwoods Community Secondary School in Rhinelander.