Police program warns teens about social media pitfalls

Police program warns teens about social media pitfalls

KAHALA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Today's young people spend hours each day on social media.

And while many of the online interactions they have are positive, some can be hurtful -- and have years-long negative impacts on the their lives.

That's the message law enforcement officials are taking to schools statewide, as part of a program aimed at addressing cyberbullying and other online problems teens encounter.

On Monday, officers were at Kalani High School to urge young people to be savvy internet users.

Valerie Mariano, from the state Department of the Attorney General's community crime prevention division, said some posts can be seen by friends or friends instantly. "Whatever they post online can be seen by everyone once they press the send button," she said.

Sexting is another issue addressed at the assembly.

Inappropriate pictures can be screen grabbed and sent to many others. And sharing pictures like that can be considered distributing child porn.

"If you're sharing it, you are committing a crime," said Honolulu Police Sgt. Kim Buffett.

She added that cyberbullying remains the biggest problems teens tackle online.

"It is a major cause of teenage suicide, which is so sad," she said. "Bullying when we were growing up was one on one you could go home and be safe in your home whereas cyberbullying now is one on 10,000, one on 100,000."

At the assembly, teens sat on the floor of the gym, many fiddling with their phones. More than a few weren't paying attention.

But the message did stick with student Eina Dreyer.

"I think I might delete my Instagram now because it's scary how much people can find out about you and they can find where you are and what you're doing," she said.

Dreyer is referring to Instagram's time stamp of posts. Teens often include their locations and the combination of that plus the time stamp can help a stalker find them.

Buffett also said minor posts have caused some teens to lose scholarships.

She said the program isn't aimed at scaring teens, but helping them understand how to properly use social media.

Buffett also encourages parents to keep up with the technology.

"Because Facebook is now for old people, they switched to Instagram, now Instragram is Snapchat," she said. "They're one step ahead of us... as parents what we have to do is monitor."

Kalani Principal Mitchell Otani said the assembly was powerful, and wants to expand it to parents.

"In the future, we should have a night meeting and have parents come with the kids," he said.

Copyright 2016 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.