Captain Adam Flowers said something that struck a chord with parents and children in the audience on Tuesday at the Children’s Justice Center gymnasium.
“What we give our kids is a key to the whole world,” Flowers said as he held up a cellular phone.
More than 150 people attended the presentation on internet safety by Flowers, who works at the Canadian County Sheriff’s Department in the Computer Crimes Division. Facility directors invited Flowers to make the presentation on a difficult topic.
“We have a very heavy, but important message for you tonight,” said Co-Facility Director of CJC, Bill Alexander.
If anyone would know about the dangers of the internet, it would be Flowers. In the last six years, his division helped make 150 arrests of individuals with sexual interest in children. Flowers said 70 percent of those arrested had intentions of engaging in sexual activities with the children and 99 percent used Facebook or Instagram to facilitate the contact with the children.
In an ever-growing digital age, access to privacy is becoming more and more available and it isn’t difficult when the information is freely passed out on the internet. Each time a picture is posted or personal information is updated on a profile it is essentially available to the world.
“Kids are making it easy for predators,” Flowers said.
One of the disturbing trends among youth is known as “sexting.” Flowers said he has visited each school in Canadian County to investigate “sexting rings.” The term “sexting” refers to when a person takes a photograph of themselves fully or partially nude and then sends it to someone else via text message.
“It goes from peer pressure to a word called extortion,” Flower said.
With the rise of “sexting” there now exists a black-market trade for these nude photos of children and adults. Flowers said also available with the picture, is personal information including name, age, location, school, or workplace. New studies have shown that once a picture is placed online it takes an average of 12 hours for the photo to be available worldwide and 48 hours for the photo to be traded on the black market.
Another subject discussed during the presentation was online gaming. When a person logs on to play the game online, they have access to anyone else in the world playing that game. Most games have the option of a video or audio component which means they are speaking directly to someone.
Flowers said the dangerous element is it allows predators to have access for communication with children and to develop bonds with the children.
“Bad guys don’t play fair,” Flowers said. “They will tell you they love you and that you’re their best friend.”
Barbara Young brought her two sons to the presentation on Tuesday. She said while the topic has been discussed with her family, it was an eye-opening experience.
“We are going to sit down and have some more talks,” Young said. “I could tell by some of the communication they had with me during the presentation, that it opened their eyes too.”
Facility directors said they will be offering more presentations on the subject in the future.