The dangers of the Internet and hand-held devices are now actively taught at Kenai Middle School and Kenai Central High School.
Kenai Police Officer Alex Prins is also the School Resource Officer for Kenai schools and look after Kenai’s six schools.
Prins, who has an office at KCHS, said he works with the administration at KCHS and holds classes for high school and middle school students about Internet safety. His 45-minute Digital Media presentation covers social networking, email, video chatting, texting and sexting, as well as the Alaska Statues.
So far he has taught two classes at the middle school.
“And I anticipate teaching many more before the year is over,” he said.
Prins said his post was created after he obtained various trainings. He has gone into the classrooms to explain and advocate safety on the Internet and the dangers of sexting.
“(It is) to educate the kids so they understand what a dangerous game they are playing,” he said.
Prins said that sexting, the act of sending sexually explicit messages and or photographs, primarily between mobile phones, is an ongoing issue in Kenai.
“It is basically a crime,” he said, adding that he has had to refer charges to police due to sexting crimes.
Sexting charges may include indecent viewing of photography, unlawful exploitation of a minor, distribution of child pornography as well as possession of child pornography.
Prins said when he holds a class, many of the students don’t understand what they are doing is criminal. Often times the crimes are not reported due to the repercussions.
“I think there is a bunch of stuff that does not get reported,” he said. “(The students) don’t want their parents to find out.”
Prins said he would gladly hold a class for parents, to explain what he talks about to the middle and high school students. He believes parental involvement is necessary.
“I think it is hugely important for parents to be involved with what their kids are doing online,” he said.
The Kenai Community Library offers Internet Safety Video Conferences, often two a month, featuring Juneau Police Detective Shawn Phelps, who explains the dangers of the Internet.
In a recent video conference held at the library, Phelps said many areas of the Internet are not well monitored, such as chat rooms and message boards. Parents need to monitor kids who use these sites.
“Social networking and message boards can be some of the most dangerous areas on the Internet, places where people take advantage of others, “ he said.
He also advised that users update soft ware, antivirus and anti-spyware programs and consider using encryption.
Another tips Phelps offered was to stay anonymous.
“Being anonymous is very important,” he said to a group on video chat in Glennallen, Seward, Craig, Kenai and Hollis.
He said not to post identifying information such as name, addresses or phone numbers, nicknames, names of schools and hangouts.
He also warned against using simple passwords and not to use the same passwords for multiple accounts. He also said to change them often.
Another hot topic is social networking. Phelps explained to treat others how you want to be treated and not to post anything you may regret later.
“Once statements are made or pictures or videos are posted, other people control them, and you can’t take them back,” he said at the conference.
Sara J. Hardan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.