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Carlsbad Teens Get a Lesson in Online Safety from Police

CARLSBAD >> Think no one but your friends are interested in what you post online? Think again. That's the message that Carlsbad Police Det. Blaine Rennie gave to students at P.R. Leyva Middle school.

Partnering with Zelma Lopez of the Eddy County Kid's Safehouse, the two were there to deliver a wake up call for students who haven't considered the consequences of the daily selfie.

Predators, said Rennie, are no longer just looking for vulnerable targets but using unsecured content in ways the poster never meant.

A number of student's hands went up in response to Rennie's questions about online risky behavior. Access to social media including Facebook and smart phones has placed children in the path of potential online predators.

What you put online, he said, can be dangerous.

It's a scary reality. The internet is no longer an anonymous way to connect; photos contain geo-tagging information, emails and user names connect a single user even when they use different websites.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children published 'Six Degrees of Information", a project which is meant to show the facility of retrieving data online. In six clicks a predator can mine online information which allows him to target the most vulnerable.

But not only sexual predators are using the internet to do harm. Peer to peer bullying and harassment via electronic devices and online has increased, and so have the consequences for those children who choose to participate in that kind of activity.

Elise Kriste, the health teacher at P.R., said several of her students had written research papers on bullying, emotionally connecting to the story of Amanda Todd, a 15-year-old Canadian student, who was bullied and ultimately committed suicide.

Todd's ordeal began when she sent a nude photo of herself to an online acquaintance, which lead to blackmail and bullying. It was an escalating situation that any teen might find themselves in according to Lopez.

"We're here to help you," said Lopez.

Rennie urged students to be vocal about any uncomfortable situation."Tell someone, call me, and it will stop," Rennie urged students.

Reporter Jessica Onsurez may be reached at (575)491-4682.

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