Pixel Tracker

Saturday, January 19 , 2019, 12:52 am | Fair 49º


Bill Cirone: Cyber Danger — What Parents Need to Know

Technology and social media comprise the one area where most parents are less savvy and skilled than their children. Most of the time, that doesn’t matter. The Internet can be a wonderful source of information, resources and roads to new worlds of wonder.

It can also be a very dangerous place.

District Attorney Joyce Dudley recently had some of her top staff members make presentations to school district superintendents from throughout Santa Barbara County, to help bring them up to speed about the newest dangers to young people and the ways we can better protect our children.

The answer, as always, is education — letting parents and young people understand the scope of the issue and how to deal with it.

Take cyber bullying as one example. Children, especially adolescents, can be horribly cruel to each other because their feelings of empathy are not yet fully developed. The capacity to inflict real harm has always been present, but with the proliferation of social media that cruelty can now become constant. It can arrive via text message, email or Internet postings, and it can bombard a young person day and night. Tragically, we are hearing more stories of young people driven to suicide because they could no longer stand the shame, the embarrassment or the pain of the constant harassment.

Adding to the problem, cyberspace provides anonymity that can embolden teens to be cruel. The hateful messages can escalate. Fortunately, in Santa Barbara County, law enforcement is pursuing vigorous action against these types of crimes. All young people and parents should be made aware of that.

Every time anyone engages with a digital system, that action can be traced. Law enforcement has the tools to track these actions and is committed to doing so in our county. The hope is that the mere knowledge of this fact could deter some young people from taking part.

“Sexting” is another perilous action for teens, who tend to think the first person they love is the one they will be with forever. For example, a young teen girl might decide or be persuaded to send sexual images through her cell phone to a boyfriend who she assumes will be her husband some day. When the pair break up, the boy might still have that image, and if the breakup was contentious, he could post the photo or otherwise share it.

This trouble is double-edged. The young woman, feeling humiliated and shamed, could become depressed or even suicidal. The young man, who had possession of and possibly distributed child pornography, can be charged with a felony and required to register as a sex offender in California. He certainly will not be going to the college he wanted.

Young people simply don’t know the dangers of what they consider normal behavior. Anyone familiar with the story of former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner knows that this behavior is not even reserved for young people. But teens, in particular, can do stupid things that have a major impact on the rest of their lives.

A third area of concern is online grooming by predators. These deviants can assume the persona of a young man or woman and stalk a teen online, pretending to be a friend or love interest. Pictures posted online include geo-data, which contains the longitude and latitude of the spot where the photo was taken. It’s not hard for a predator to find his prey in person.

It is possible to set protections on Facebook so that this information cannot be accessed. It’s also a good idea for families to have computers in a communal room. Most important of all, for all these issues, parents should have open, honest conversations with their teens about what goes on online and what the very real consequences can be.

Parents need to teach their children to be responsible and aware of the consequences of what they do, in the cyber world and everywhere.

The solution isn’t to shelter teens from technology — that would be impossible. The solution is to help them learn how to use technology responsibly.

— Bill Cirone is Santa Barbara County’s superintendent of schools. The opinions expressed are his own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >