Teenagers pretty much know the drill. Don’t put anything on social media you don’t want to haunt you the rest of life. Never meet anyone in person alone that you met on-line. Don’t send lurid pictures on the Internet.
But vital information always bears repeating, and Red Bank defense attorney Al Mollo gave Red Bank Regional seniors a presentation on the statistics and dangers of the Internet as part of Violence and Vandalism Prevention Week. He then made the stats real when obliging a student’s request to “Tell us some interesting stories.”
He related the story of a client, a young man who had won a full ride to a major D-1 school--the dream of many students. He was on the baseball team as well as the Dean’s list and had never been in any trouble with the law. That was until he participated in a bar brawl that left another young man severely injured. Pictures on his Facebook page minutes after the altercation showed him jubilantly holding the victim’s bloody sneaker. A search of his computer emails revealed threats to the victim, which transformed a sure acquittal into a certain conviction.
Al Motto stated, “He had to plead guilty or risk four years in jail. He now has a criminal record. He lost his scholarship and subsequently had to drop out of school. He will never get that back.”
Another situation involved reverse cyber bullying, where a victim was so fed up with his tormentor, he wrote on-line that if the bully did not leave him alone, he would get his father’s gun and shoot him. Mr. Mollo is currently defending him against major criminal charges.
“Anything you do on a smart phone or computer can be reconstructed. Once it is out there, you can’t take it back,” he told the students.
For seniors currently applying to colleges, or who will soon be seeking employment, the message could not have been more timely or repeated often enough. The statistics reveal that 80% of colleges search social media in considering college applications. Also, employers view an applicant’s Facebook 65% of the time versus a 63% rate for LinkedIn, the professional Facebook.
Regarding cyber bullying, the statistics are sobering with over 40% of students report having been bullied at some time while 25% report it happening more than once.
He also discussed other cyber crimes include stalking and identity theft.
His social media tips bear printing for all young people and their parents to heed:
- Always set your profiles to private
- Never post photos with alcohol, drugs or any illegal activity
- Never be alone if meeting someone for the first time on line
- Never post provocative photos
- Before you post something to social media ask yourself, “Would someone give me a job if they read this?”
- And finally, never post anything you wouldn’t want your granny to see.
RBR conducted activities all week in observance of the national Violence and
Vandalism Prevention Week. Community groups and organizations setup
informational tables to answer student questions and increase awareness of
county resources. These included PFLG, a support group for parents, family and friends of lesbian and gay individuals, and 2nd Floor. The latter operates a youth hotline that deals with all topics raised by callers including concerns
over bullying and peer pressure, problems in peer and dating relationships,
experiencing racism among other topics of concern for youth people. Local
police officers from the RBR sending districts visited students at lunchtime engaging students in informal conversations as community members rather then disciplinarians.