A safe space

Educators, law enforcement emphasize digital citizenship

TORRINGTON – “Once you hit send, you can never take it back.” 

This warning comes from Goshen County Undersheriff Jeremy Wardell on the heels of a Wyoming incident involving a female juvenile, an older male and the popular photo-sharing app

Earlier this month, the Converse County Sheriff’s Department began investigating reports of a person identifying them self as “Oliver Dun” contacting a young woman via Snapchat and using the name “oil6120”. The pair also communicated via Dun’s Instagram account (oliver61230) and through Facebook

Dun coerced the female into sending him compromising photos, and then threatened to send her photos to her family and friends if she did not also provide compromising pictures of her younger brother.

Upon further investigation, Converse County law enforcement determined the following: Dun is not a 14-year-old male, as he claimed; he resides outside the U.S; and Dun is not his real name. Additionally, the predator has contacted female juveniles across the U.S. using the same methods with which he targeted the Converse County girl, and he often targets individuals on prior victims’ Facebook
friends’ lists.

The Converse County Sheriff’s Department reported the findings on its Facebook page and requested followers share the information to prevent Dun and others like him from targeting more individuals in the area.

Locally, Wardell said his office has not been made aware of any similar cases.

“We have not received any reports here, but it is a big issue nationwide,” he said. “I was speaking with a law enforcement officer who works (primarily in) the Platte County area last week. She is aware of a survey, which said a large percentage of high school-aged kids think there is nothing wrong with sending these kinds of pictures to peers/others. There could be legal consequences by engaging in this behavior.”

Wardell added he, as a law enforcement officer and a father, tries to keep updated on the subject. One website he recommended was The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (www.missingkids.com).

The website states, “Only 3 percent of all teen cell phone users report having sent ‘sexually suggestive’ nude or nearly nude photos or video. However, 16 percent of all teen cellphone users say they have received a sexually suggestive photo or video of someone they know.”

In Goshen County School District (GCSD) No. 1, Technology Director Bryan Foster said administrative staff and teachers attempt to combat the problem in a positive way – by emphasizing digital citizenship.

“The school uses many different outlets for the media they teach, such as Family Online Safety Institute (www.fosi.org), Common Sense Media (www.commonsense.org/education), Netsmartz (www.netsmartz.org/Teens), and netsafeutah (www.netsafeutah.org),” Foster said. “The Internet changes rapidly and some of those changes expose our children and students to greater risk. We believe that teaching our students to be good digital citizens will help them make good choices when there is not a parent or other supervisory person nearby.”

Foster said each administrator receives a copy of “Digital Citizenship Defined,” described as “a document that lists the standards (the) International Society for Technology in Education considers to be the most important in a well-rounded, digital citizenship curriculum,” he explained.

Some of the characteristics of good digital citizenship listed in the document include treating others with respect, making appropriate decisions when communicating through a variety of channels, and protecting personal information from outside forces that might cause harm (www.iste.org).

“(Internet safety) is to be part of our curriculum,” GCSD No. 1 Superintendent Jean Chrostoski said. “There is a great deal of one-on-one counseling we do with students, as well. Our principals (spend) countless hours investigating social media incidents that happen both in, and out, of school.”

With the ever-growing popularity of social media and sharing photos – particularly amongst youth – local educators, law enforcement officers and parents recognize the need to be proactive to prevent incidences like the one in Converse County from
happening here.

“In the future, I’d like to partner with the school more (on the issue),” Wardell said, adding the sheriff’s department is working with Prevention Management Organization of Wyoming to secure funding in order to spend more time interacting with students.

“Once you hit send, you can never take it back,” Wardell emphasized. “You may think that person won’t share it, but they will.”

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