About two dozen people braved Thursday’s storm to learn about digital media safety at a presentation given by Kenai Police Officer Alex Prins.
Prins is also the School Resource Office for Kenai schools and has given the presentation multiple times to Kenai students. The Kenai Peninsula College Kenai River Campus’s Psychology Club hosted the free event open to the general public.
Prins began his presentation with a focus on social media. Using Facebook as an example, he said there are two requirements when signing up for an account, users must have a valid email address and accept the terms of agreement.
Facebook users can lie about age, name and location, he said, people need to be aware of that when accepting friend requests. He said even though on Facebook, users can block people, “nothing on these things is totally private.”
Prins showed a short video “Digital Dossier” by Youth and Media’s Digital Natives project about how people’s lives are logged as digital dossiers or trails of information. For the world’s newest generation, digital dossiers are forming before birth with parents posting sonogram images. As individuals begin to surf the web on their own, their identities are created and advertisers use that information to strategically place ads.
Information that individuals post “could easily be misused in the wrong hands,” Prins said. When people post on social media that they’re not home, he said, what criminals see is that they can come take what they want.
Online predators don’t even have to leave their homes to commit crime, Prins said.
“It’s safer,” he said. “(Internet predators) don’t get chased and shot at.”
He recommended people should avoid using public Wi-Fi because predators can see everything anyone connected to that network does online.
Usually online crimes are sex or money related, Prins said, like blackmailing someone with a photo or video they want to keep private.
As a school officer, Prins said an issue he sees too much of is sexting, sending sexual messages or photographs. Prins said when he signed up to police the schools, he didn’t think he’d be working to prevent kids from being charged with child pornography.
Felony child pornography charges related to sexting can range from possession to indecent viewing to distribution, he said.
If a pornographic photo or video is on someone’s phone, that person doesn’t have to see it to be charged with possession. To be charged with distribution, the porn just has to be shown to someone, the image or video doesn’t have to be sent, Prins said.
He demonstrated various apps that can be used to get and hide explicit images and videos.
Snapchat is an app that allows users to send photos and videos that are viewable for a set amount of time before they disappear. However, quick-fingered phone users can take screen captures of images and save them.
Prins said the app is popular with sexters.
MyLocker is an app that stores files, but has two different “lockers,” one is fake and one is real. There is a password for each. Prins demonstrated how kids can store parent-friendly photos in the fake “locker” and hide other images from their parents in the second one.
Another secret file app is Secret Calculator. Prins demonstrated how this app works like a regular calculator, but users can enter a code and access hidden files.
He told parents that if they see a suspicious app on their child’s phone, that they should do an online search for it to find out if they should be concerned.
While Prins said he is not an expert on digital media, his presentation is based on training and experience in the field, event goers not only learned about the “dark side” of the digital media, they were shocked by it.
KPC psychology student Casey Neill, who attended the presentation, was surprised to hear about middle school and junior high school students sexting.
“I don’t think it’s right for 14 and 15 year olds to be sexting, or even if you’re older,” she said.
Classmates Liberty Rohn and Briana King said they’re concerned for their younger family members and future generations’ digital media safety in general.
King said the apps with the hidden files “scared” her, and she is going to check her younger sister’s phone. She said her computer has been hacked before, which concerned her, but after hearing Prins’ presentation, she plans to be even more cautious.
“The opportunities are endless to be hacked,” she said.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.