NEW PARIS — One click of the send button on a cell phone is all it can take to ruin someone’s life.
What was meant for just one person to view can be seen by hundreds or even thousands of people in just a matter of minutes.
And the consequences can be life altering or worse — lead someone to take their own life.
Often the contents are inappropriate photos sent by teenagers and meant for a boyfriend or girlfriend.
Stephen J. Smith, Director of Educational Leadership with Cincinnati Bell, recently spoke of those dangers and other topics at National Trail High School.
“If you would have told me five years ago that I would be traveling through Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky talking about this subject I would have said ‘you’re crazy, I have no reason to do that.’ The reality is there is a reason to do it. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time — or the wrong place at the wrong time, depending on how you look at it,” Smith said.
He told a story of an incident which happened several years ago. A teenage girl took an inappropriate photo of herself and sent it to her boyfriend, who sent it on to other people.
“The story has been repeated over and over again in countless cities across the United States. But this one hit home because it was somebody that I kind of knew, or at least I knew of the family. I watched this unfolding on television,” Smith said.
He said it ultimately resulted in the girl being bullied at school, in the parking lot and online.
“Then she came home one day and took her own life,” Smith said. “I thought, how horrible that this young person who had everything in the world to look forward too would think that life was no longer worth living.”
Smith said he went to his management and told them they develop a lot of the networks where a lot of the bullying and such take place, saying he never thought anyone would use that type of technology for that purpose.
“I had no idea how young people were using the technology. My kids were older and I wasn’t worried about what they were doing on smart phones,” he said.
For about a month he investigated the technology and how it related to the youth of the community.
“I was dismayed. I could not believe what was going on,” he said. “I couldn’t believe the apps that were out there — and these apps kept growing and growing.”
That’s when he made a proposal to his bosses to begin a speakers program such as the one he participated in at National Trail in late March.
Smith goes from community to community to warn parents and students alike on the dangers of social media.
He informed those parents who were in attendance to check their children’s mobile devices and apps to see just what their children are doing.
Some of the questions he posed to the crowd included: What actually happens when you send inappropriate material? Not just from a legal perspective — what can happen to you economically and educationally? What is online privacy? What should we expect? What can somebody see when you are using social media?
Smith said most people will be surprised at the results when they start searching.
What is happening with the increase of teen depression as it relates to the misuse of technology?
“It’s one of those unintended consequences when it comes to technology,” he said.
(Editor’s note: This is the third installment in a series regarding the dangers of social media. Look for more on privacy settings and different apps being used by teens in an upcoming edition of The Register-Herald.)