Hanahan Police warn parents about social media risks

VIDEO: Hanahan Police hold meetings to warn parents of social media dangers

HANAHAN, SC (WCSC) - Police officers in Hanahan are making sure parents know the dangers of social media for their children.

Police held a community meeting Thursday night where parents could voice their concerns and questions on the topic.

Officers held the meeting to help parents understand some of the dangers that could be on their child's phone that they may not know about.

Topics included dangerous apps, social media catfishing, secret or hidden apps, teen sexting, and how to monitor mobile devices.

Apps mentioned in the presentation included:

  • The Monkey App - a chat app that allows kids to have chats with new people from around the world. Users are randomly matched with other users for a brief, introductory video call. When matched with a new person, the user can add more time or add the person on Snapchat to continue the connection.
  • Houseparty - A video chat app, almost like Facetiming, with up to eight people at once. Users invite people to join their “party” via a text message. Each time you open the app, you are instantly connected with any contacts who are also on the app, giving you the opportunity to state a group chat. For private chats, users can “lock” the room so others cannot join. When a person who isn’t a user’s direct friend enters a chat, an alert is shown, giving the user the chance to exit the conversation.
  • Hot or Not - A popular app where users can rate others on whether they are physically attractive. New members must upload pictures of themselves to be rated by others.
  • Snapchat - Users “snap” an image or video, add a caption and send to friends or post to a “story” which can be viewed for a specified amount of time before it disappears. The app displays a users location on a “Snap Map.” Additional features include the Discover section where explicit magazine articles are displayed.
  • Lipsi - In the words of the developers, “Lipsi is more than just an anonymous app. It’s a platform that attracts the boldest who want to step out of their comfort zone.” The app allows people to exchange honest thoughts, and a minimum age of 18 years old is recommended.

Hanahan Police Sgt. Ricardo Perry told parents the apps can be misused and can be a hotbed for sexual predators. They can be emotionally challenging for users where personal information can be shared. Cyber-bullying, sexting and catfishing are also possible risks.

The act of “catfishing” is defined as fabricating online identities to lure someone into relationships or to share personal, potentially embarrassing information or photos.

“Sexting” is the act of exchanging sexually explicit or suggestive images, messages or video online. It includes sending nude or nearly nude photos or selfies or videos that show nudity, sex acts or simulated sex.

Perry told parents:

  • 17 percent of sexters share the messages they receive with others and 55 percent of those share them with more than one person
  • 70 percent of teen boys and girls who sext do so with their girlfriend or boyfriend, while 61 percent of all sexters who have sent nude images admit that they were pressured to do it at least once
  • Nearly 40 percent of all teens have posted or sent sexually-suggestive messages, but the practice is more common among boys than girls
  • 15 percent of teens who have sent or posted nude or semi-nude images of themselves send these messages to people they have never met, but know from the internet

He said teens sext because of pressure from their girlfriend or boyfriend, as a means of demonstrating commitment in a relationship (as a form of “relationship currency”), to show off or get attention, to entice someone or flirt with someone they are interested in, because they are being groomed by an adult or because they aren’t thinking.

But he warned sext messages can be shared with others, even as “revenge porn,” and go viral, putting one’s reputation in jeopardy.

In addition to emotional distress, there could even be legal ramifications. In certain situations, disseminating harmful material or disseminating obscene material to a person under 18 could lead to felony charges and up to 10 years in prison. Certain instances of sexting could even fall under child pornography laws.

This is the second community parent meeting that was held focusing around social media.

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