By mtjulietintern

Homeland Security agent discusses dangers for children

By Jacob Smith

jsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Andy Hendricks with the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security spoke to Wilson County parents Wednesday night about internet safety at Mt. Juliet High School.

Hendricks spoke about the dangers teens and younger children face with unlimited access to the internet through their devices.

“A child with a smartphone or device has no way of understanding ‘what should I be looking at and what should I not?’” said Hendricks.

The dangers of sexting and sexploitation were also discussed. Sexploitation is when someone receives explicit pictures of a person and uses the pictures to bribe the person into taking more pictures and sending them

Hendricks stressed the importance of never sending any kind of explicit pictures over any kind of social media.

“Once an image is on the internet, there is nothing I can do,” said Hendricks. “I work for the United States president and the United States government, and we still have the most powerful government in the world. Once those pictures go online, though, there is nothing we can do. They’re there forever.”

Cyber bullying was also discussed at the event.

Hendricks closed with a story of a teenager from Canada named Amanda Todd. Todd was the recipient of severe bullying both online and in person after a nude picture she sent was shared with everyone she knew.

Todd eventually attempted suicide but was saved when her dad came home from work early and took her to the hospital. After the incident, her dad decided it was for the best they move to a new area for a fresh start.

Somehow, the picture Todd had taken found its way to her new school, and the bullying began again. In 2012, after posting a video on YouTube where she told her story, Todd killed herself.

“I see the darkest side of humanity,” said Hendricks. “This girl was someone’s child, someone’s sister. I can’t help her. This is something that we need to know exists because it can be prevented. Don’t do it. Don’t let your kids share this stuff online. Our children don’t understand they are playing with live ammo.”