Charges Against Bemidji Asst. Principal Highlights Child Safety On The Internet
In the charges against Bemidji Middle School Assistant Principal Brandon Bjerknes, law enforcement officials allege that he created aliases on social media to solicit illicit photos from his victims. Reporter Mal Meyer talked to area experts about how parents can talk to their children about the hidden dangers on their smartphones.
Now more than ever, it’s easy to send text, photos and videos through apps.
Which is why parents need to know of the different types of apps – like anonymous ones which use your location.
Some children might be lured into sending sexual photos over the app because they believe no one will know who they are. But there are ways that people can figure it out, putting them in danger.
Another type of app is the temporary ones – like Snapchat. You take a photo, set the timer, and send off an image. But these images and videos can last far beyond their timers.
Beyond having someone save them forever, in cases where naked photos or videos are being sent around to classmates, there can be serious consequences, even for minors.
Which is why parents should be proactive. There are some warning signs that your child may be involved in this type of behavior or that they’re being abused. This might include changes in mood, appetite, friend group, not wanting to go near someone they used to be in contact with frequently, nightmares or disturbed sleep patterns, delinquent behavior or other changes.
The advocates at Support Within Reach says the best way to open the door to conversation is letting the child know that you believe them.
The Bemidji Police Department recommends the site Common Sense Media, where parents can stay up to date on apps and their different uses. NetSmatz411 also provides information about internet safety and preventative measures families can take to protect their kids.
Support Within Reach offers a confidential, free 24/7 crisis hotline where victims can talk to professionals. The organization provides various services as well, including a Prevention Education and Awareness Program, Systems Change and Advocacy Program, and these other services for victims:
- Assistance with filing Harassment Restraining Orders (HRO) and Orders for Protection (OFP)
- Assistance with filing reports with law enforcement
- Specialized criminal justice advocacy
- Crisis intervention
- Ongoing basic counseling
- Medical accompaniment to sexual assault examinations at local emergency rooms
- Support groups
- Follow-up assistance
More information can be found on Support Within Reach’s website. To learn more about internet safety for teens, visit https://www.staysafe.org/teens/