Dickinson Police to offer Internet safety course
When Dickinson Police Detective Travis Leintz started as an Internet Crimes Against Children affiliate three years ago, the phone app Instagram was barely a year old. Snapchat had just been released and Whisper didn’t even exist yet.
“They change daily,” he said.
If the names sound foreign, you’re not alone, and you’re probably not a teen.
But if you have children, staying on top of what’s on your child’s phone is vital, Leintz said.
“A lot of parents are unaware of what’s going on it their children’s lives,” he said. “Parents, grandparents, any kind of guardian, have to know what’s out there.”
So the Dickinson Police Department has decided to take a proactive approach. Earlier this month, they announced plans for an Internet safety course to be taught by Leintz with assistance from Dickinson Police Sgt. Kylan Klauzer.
The course will cover which apps and websites teens are using, warning signs parents should watch for and how to to effectively monitor teens’ mobile usage. Enrollment for the free course is now open, with a date and location yet to be set.
The popularity of chatting apps and websites like Twitter, Facebook and Facetime present a whole new set of challenges for investigators like Leintz, as well as parents, to stay ahead of the digital curve and protect teens from online predators.
As the digital landscape has evolved and digital crime has kept pace. Reports of online harassment increased 83 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to data compiled by the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.
Leintz said he hears complaints at least once a week from parents concerned with their children’s web use, but unsure what to do about it.
“We said, ‘This is getting out of hand,’” he said.
Leintz already gives presentations to students from seventh grade through high school on web safety, but until now, aside from sites like NetSmartz.org, there were few local resources for parents.
“How many more people can we help by educating parents and getting into the home?” Leitz said.
“Children are becoming so advanced,” Klauzer said. “Young adults are more advanced than what their parents were. We’re giving them cellphones and technology at such a young age.”
Thirty-seven percent of U.S. teens own smartphones and 58 percent of teens have downloaded apps onto their computer tablets, according to a 2013 report from Pew Research. When looking at how the Baby Boomer generation uses technology, just 25 percent of adults ages 47-56 have ever downloaded an app, according to a 2012 Pew Research report.
“It’s been a real tough thing for us to educate parents on,” Klauzer said.
More information can be found on the Dickinson Police Department’s Facebook page or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.