One of our less-obvious duties is to protect people from harm they may inadvertently cause to themselves. A few examples include stopping someone who is about to commit suicide, arresting drunk drivers to prevent them from having accidents or getting emergency medical assistance for someone suffering a drug overdose. These examples and many more involve self-inflicted hazards from which the police traditionally protect people from themselves.
The latest twist in people harming themselves is one that is seen regardless of age or gender; it is that of individuals sending compromising images of themselves via electronic means.
Consider a recent scenario reported to the Marietta Police Department in which a young girl sent a compromising photo of herself to a boy through social media. What did not cross this girl’s mind is how quickly that image could be distributed to unintended viewers without her consent. The photo could be a few clicks away from being forwarded to large contact lists, posted on social media or displayed on a website. The picture is no longer in her control. In fact, the once intimate image can now be shared for the world to see and will be there for years to come.
The instant something is posted on the Internet by cell phone, mobile or desktop computers it is recorded, copied and staying forever. It immediately becomes susceptible to being discovered and copied by hackers, Internet predators and social media providers. The photos can be misused again and again; and they make it virtually impossible for those involved to ever really escape their youthful and/or emotional indiscretions. Thus, hasty or misguided social media postings can expose someone to long-term harm in terms of their reputation, career, finances, and even personal safety.
In the interest of protecting everyone from themselves, please accept the advice of Marietta police officers who have seen many self-inflicted calamities:
• Parents, be proactive in your kid’s lives and make it your business to know what your kids are putting on the Internet either on their cell phones or other computers. If it is material that can come back to embarrass or hurt them, make them stop. You should not have to learn what your kids are doing from the police.
• Everyone, think about the potential of a message or image to be used against you in the future or otherwise hurt embarrass you before you hit the send button. The limitations of the Internet contain no boundaries. One may not realize that actions performed online could have negative repercussions thousands of miles away or years down the road.
The Marietta Police Department will always work diligently to protect Marietta citizens from themselves and deal with inadvertent problems created in the social media. We just hope it will not be so necessary in the future. It is everyone’s job to keep Marietta safe.
Dan Flynn is the Marietta chief of police.