Officer Aragon has been an Irvine police officer since 2009 working multiple assignments. His current assignment is being a DARE officer in the Youth Services United. He has been in his current position for two years, working with nine elementary schools, the Irvine Adult Transition School, and the Early Childhood Center. He primarily teaches the DARE program, and has been teaching Internet Safety to students and parents for the last two years at schools, churches, and a variety of community groups.
Officer Aragon stated that the most important thing in cyber security is opening up the lines of communication between parents and their children. Internet safety needs to be discussed openly. Officer Aragon asked the audience a question he regularly asks students – “Is the gun he carries at his side dangerous?” The answer is that it depends on who is using it, and how. The same goes for the mobile devices we carry in our pockets. It can be dangerous, and so parents need to remain vigilant in discussing and practicing internet and social media safety with their families.
Officer Aragon stressed the fact that this generation of youth are digital natives. Adults are the digital immigrants. The kids are the experts, and their parents can not expect to know more than them. Technology is only technology to those that were born before it, and because mobile devices and social media aren’t things adults grew up with, it is not possible to know what it’s like to be a 6th grader in 2015. Officer Aragon advised that parents treat their children as a co-worker, treat the relationship as a partnership in practicing cyber security.
Officer Aragon explained that social is mobile. Not only are the typical social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter social, but gaming apps now include a social function as well. He warned that contrary to the marketing of programs such as Snapchat, everything leaves a digital footprint. Even though Snapchat claims its messages are instantaneously deleted, the option to screenshot images is there, and Snapchat itself archives everything. Once something is online, it cannot be erased. It exists somewhere.
Social media is all about the followers, it’s just another popularity contest. Companies leverage the desire to fit in, and capitalize on the need to be part of the “1000 club.” Because of this desire to increase follower count, youth are likely to accept requests from just about anyone, and thus inadvertently provide sensitive information to potentially dangerous strangers. Officer Aragon provided the example of an increase in robberies as a result of oversharing. A family goes out of town for a few weeks, the teenage daughter “checks in” at the airport, and the potential thief has free reign until the family returns.
Some dangerous trends among youth and usage of social media and Internet include bullying; cyberbullying; selfies featuring gang signs, rude hand gestures, drug and alcohol use, etc; password sharing; hate pages and cyber-slamming; sexting and posting nude selfies (which is a felony); and, in some cases, even attempted suicide and suicide. Youth have also adopted the use of multiple accounts and vault apps in order to censor what their parents are able to see on their social media accounts and mobile devices.
As today’s youth have become glued to their mobile devices, Officer Aragon advises to proceed with caution when it comes to sharing, and oversharing, content online. The decisions youth (and everyone) make in what they post can affect their future opportunities. Many professional fields conduct background checks, checking material posted at the age of thirteen. Colleges, universities, scholarships, and the military review this material when considering applicants. An underage nude selfie taken at fifteen, or being expelled at fourteen for cyber-bullying, can result in limited employment and education opportunities.
Fortunately, there are things that can be done to promote cyber security. First, parents can immerse themselves in social media. Create a profile for yourself, but be respectful and sensitive in your posts. Second, be a role model for your children in your Internet use. Third, set aside some time to power down, perhaps at mealtimes or at night. Fourth, talk to them. Engage them in conversation (coming from a place of dialogue and understanding, not a place of confrontation) about their online use. Fifth, go public. Keep computers, phones and tablets in common areas of the home, such as the kitchen or living room. Sixth, be kind when interacting with your children. And seven, take action. Call your service providers and set data or usage limitations. Monitor all devices used. Create and sign an Internet contract with your family.
Pacifica Institute would like to thank Officer Mathew Aragon for his very informative lecture on cyber security and internet safety.