Stop, Block, and Talk: Internet Safety With the Experts

On January 5, Jackie Lamont and Erica Chepulis spoke to RL’s boys in a Hall focused on the potential risks and dangers of social media. Ms. Lamont is a representative of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office focused on the safety and well-being of young people online. Ms. Chepulis works in partnership with the DA’s office through the Children’s Advocacy Center. They stressed that making mistakes is a part of growing up, but that our boys were at an appropriate age to learn about what is right and wrong online. Though they kept their sources anonymous, the material they presented had come from teens who had a crime happen to them.

Our guests began their presentation by showing the various social media and internet apps a typical teen may encounter on any given day. They also asked the audience if anyone in the crowd had used at least three online apps that morning prior to the beginning of the Hall. An overwhelming majority of the boys raised their hands. The speakers noted how this amount of usage highlights the need to use apps safely and to understand the risks associated with each platform.

Some basic things teens can do is understand the privacy settings on each app. Simply by adding biographical information into a profile, we risk inadvertently sharing sensitive material with strangers. Ms. Lamont then explained the extreme risk teens face with location sharing apps. These apps can track and share the exact location of the user. She said that though it may be okay to share your location with one or two close friends, at any given point on platforms like SnapChat, a user is displaying exactly where they are to dozens of people. Ms. Chepulis and Ms. Lamont continued to share tips like ensuring that teens are aware of information in photos they publish, and they finished by explaining how and when social media posts can cross a line and do significant damage to one’s long-term reputation.

The two speakers wrapped up the Hall with a catchy and interactive song reminding students to “stop, block, and talk” if they feel themselves getting into harmful situations online. They also shared resources that the District Attorney and Children’s Advocacy Center provide for teens who need their help.