Hawthorne Learns 2b Cyber Safe

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T. DiGeronimo

Internet crime expert, Keith Dunn, on stage with HHS students during "Dare 2b Cyber Safe" assembly

Hawthorne High School students learned how to be safe online through a Dare 2b Cyber Safe assembly led by Internet crime expert Keith Dunn on April 17, 2014. Dunn stressed to students that the Internet can be a very negative place and to be wary because “negativity breeds negativity.”

Dunn, who has been working to warn teachers, parents, students and law enforcement officials on the dangers of the Internet since 1999, is an expert on cyber safety and, in addition to being featured in print, on the radio and on television, has written three books on the issue. After being honorably discharged from the United States Air Force in 1997, he became a police office. By 1999, he was a detective and a member of the National Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Dunn opened the assembly by recalling stories of students who were denied college acceptances and scholarships, fired from jobs, and kicked out the military due to their negative and incriminating Internet activity. He challenged students to avoid being another one of these stories by being safe and positive when using the Internet. He emphasized and reminded students  that “everything we put online is online forever.”

Dunn then moved into the effects cyberbulling.  He demonstrated the effects of bullying by blowing up a red balloon and inflating it every time someone in the audience insulted him, which he asked people to do. Eventually, if the insults did not stop, the pressure in the balloon would become too much, and it would pop–much like the pressure and stress put on the victims of cyberbullying. He then proceeded to deflate the balloon with each positive comment given by the audience, showing students the positive effects of being supportive and civil to others, especially when online.

Dunn also addressed the major issue of sending pictures electronically, especially pictures associated with sexting. He stressed the dangers of sending out personal photos, even to trusted friends. He reminded students that once online, these images cannot be permanently deleted and can follow a victim throughout a lifetime.

He also stressed that any image posted on the Internet, no matter its content, can lead unwanted attention through the use of the geo-tracking. Geo-tracking allows anyone to view and record the longitude, latitude, date and time the picture was taken. Dunn emphasized that awareness to things like geo-tracking is key when posting online as Internet users could easily be leading predators to their and their loved one’s exact location.

Overall, Dunn left HHS students with a lot to think about and be aware of the next time they sign onto a social networking site such as Facebook or Instagram.  HHS thanks Dunn for challenging Hawthorne to “Dare 2b Cyber Safe.”