MILWAUKEE — A new study looking into internet safety for kids ranks Wisconsin among the worst. Several Milwaukee area parents said this doesn’t surprise them.
“No it doesn’t,” said Tiffany Williams.
National safety and security company SafeWise looked at cyberbullying, electronic harassment and sexting. SafeWise Senior Security Expert Rebecca Edwards said Wisconsin is one of the five worst states.
“There is criminal sanction on the books for cyberbullying or electronic harassment and there are school policies against cyberbullying, but there are no laws in place regarding sexting that’s not considered any offense at all, a misdemeanor or a felony,” said Rebecca Edwards.
That doesn’t mean local police aren’t doing their part. Officer Jill Zeise with Brown Deer Police said understanding social media and other online platforms is part of the job.
“We as officers have to continually train in the new technology and new applications and new social media accounts,” said Officer Jill Zeise.
It is no secret social media plays a big part in online dangers. Search warrants from over the summer show how that happens.
In Brown Deer, a 10-year-old Brown Deer girl sent nude photos via Snapchat. The warrant said in one conversation a man showed grooming behavior.
In Greenfield, a 13-year-old sent a man nude pictures and video on Snapchat after she said she was threatened by someone who was going to hack into her account.
In Franklin, a teen told a school resource officer about an Instagram account with inappropriate pictures of Franklin High School students. Court records show more than one of the girls didn’t consent to their pictures being posted.
This is difficult for parents to hear.
“It scares me because they think they do, but actually they don’t because they’re not adults yet,” said Carolyn Wright.
“It scares me because it exposes the child to a lot that you may not even want your kids even at a younger age like my son to be involved with,” said Williams.
Experts encourage parents to start a conversation about online dangers early.
“The main one is do not give out any personal information. Don’t give out their full name, don’t give an address, don’t send photos of themselves,” said Officer Zeise.
“Parents need to let kids be wary of chat rooms and people reaching out to them that are people they don’t know in real life,” said Edwards.
They also suggest monitoring your kids’ email and being the administrator on their social media accounts.
“It’s not for spying on your kids,” said Edwards. “It’s for trying to protect them from the vulnerabilities and the threats that are out there.”
We reached out to the Attorney General’s Office about this study. A spokesperson referred us to two laws on the books: the revenge porn law when someone posts a picture without consent and possession of child pornography.
for an Internet safety guide for kids.