The City of Fort Collins Police Services hosted a “Keep Kids Safe on the Internet!” presentation Tuesday to educate children and adult in dealing with digital threats like cyberbullying, sexting and online predators.
The event was broken up into three different presentations: one for children ages 8 through 12, one for children 12 years and up, and one for parents and other adults.
Gary Trujillo, a Fort Collins detective in the Crimes Against Persons Unit, led the adult presentation.
“There are good parts about [the internet] and there are bad parts about it,” Trujillo said. “You need to be responsible in how you use it.”
One topic Trujillo broached was children sharing photos on the internet. According to Trujillo, sharing ostensibly harmless swimsuit photos can desensitize children to such exposure, even leading to sharing full nude photos.
“They don’t see how it is harming them and they’re normalizing it,” Trujillo said.
Trujillo explained how predators can “groom” children, such as by complimenting them, giving presents or trying to convince them that no one else understands them.
Audience member Lauren Hayes, a bilingual family advocate from the Child Advocacy Center, added that parents are also susceptible to grooming as predators attempt to earn their trust or mislead them about their identities.
“You guys aren’t exempt because you’re adults and parents to grooming,” Hayes said.
After leading the presentation for 12-year-olds and up, Patrol Division Officer Keith Maynard explained how he put together the presentation from his eight years working in internet crimes against teens.
“I base it on a lot of cyberbullying, I base it a lot on taking advantage of teens,” Maynard said. “I try to give real world examples kids can relate to,” he added, citing the recent controversy of actress Jennifer Lawrence having her nude photos leaked online.
Trujillo recommended resources like NetSmartz for internet safety education targeted toward children, adults and professionals alike; in addition to CyberTipLine, with which anyone can report suspected internet crimes.
“You all are the front line in protecting your children,” Trujillo said. “The best thing you can do is communicate with your kids and give them the warning signs.”
Another “Keep Kids Safe on the Internet!” presentation will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 on Dec. 2 at the Police Services Community Room located at 2221 S. Timberline Road.
Members of the community can reserve space by contacting Randine Nelson at (970) 416-2384 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Collegian Business and Technology Beat Reporter Nicholas LeVack can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @NicholasLeVack.