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Indian Mills Memorial School brings the dangers of poor choices on the Internet to the forefront

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One of the most difficult things to do in an academic setting is to get 300 plus students aged ten to fourteen to sit still for more than five minutes. But, Detective Sarah Hyde was able to achieve that for an hour on Friday, Oct. 16, when she presented the threats of Internet and cyber intrusions on young teens in today’s age of instant connectivity.

Representing the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office, Det. Hyde is part of the High Tech Crimes Unit, responsible for rooting out those who would prey on children through the use of such media as Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, and other well known (at least to our children) applications readily available through the Internet and smartphones.

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According to the Burlington County web site (www.co.burlington.nj.us/DocumentCenter/Home/View/554)“The High-Tech Crimes and Digital Forensics Unit conducts investigations into crimes that involve the use of high-end technology such as computers, cellular telephones, telecommunications equipment and other advanced technology. In particular, the unit examines offenses involving the exploitation of children, network intrusion, hacking and DNS attacks. The unit is a member the New Jersey State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the New Jersey State Police Cyber Terrorism Task Force.”

Using a variety of real life examples and surveying the student body on their use of different social media tools, Det. Hyde stressed the need for children to be more aware of their surroundings and comprehend the real dangers to them and their friends when they open themselves to people they don’t know or allow themselves to be put into compromising situations. Hyde pulled no punches; discussing the real dangers of sexting, opening a dialogue with people they don’t know who masquerade as young teens, and posting pictures of themselves that provide clues as to their identity, their school, or their interests. This was a real and needed “wake up” call for a generation that depends on these “apps” to connect socially.

The presentation was a continuation of the “Respect Week” program instituted by IMMS last year. For one week, teachers in each subject area and in each grade dedicate a full day’s instruction to a specific topic that focuses on respect for others, tolerance, and bullying issues. The teachers conduct the research to get the discussion going, then open it up to the students to interact and share their thoughts and experiences. By introducing the Prosecutor’s Office into the mix, Detective Hyde provided real life examples of the issues presented earlier, thus validating the efforts of our teachers. This combined effort has as its goal, a better-informed student body, more aware of the potential dangers to them if they do not act responsibly when using their devices. Det. Hyde stressed that no one was condemning the use of Smartphones and the Internet; but know what can and does happen if you aren’t thinking before you post.

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