By Diana Bowley of Bangor Daily News - DEXTER - A renowned author and speaker on net crimes showed Dexter Regional High School students on Tuesday just how easy it is to lift their personal information from the Internet.
Midway through Maine native Jayne Hitchcock's power-point presentation called "R U Rilly As Saef As U Think," up flashed the personal MySpace.com listings of a handful of Dexter students who had provided everything from their photographs to their full names and even a cellular telephone number.
Gasps and nervous laughter filled the room as she read off the students' names who were listed.
"If I can find that information, so can anyone else," Hitchcock said.
Hitchcock, president of Working to Halt Online Abuse (WHOA) and WHOA-KTD (kids/teen division), spoke to the students about cyberbullying and online predators who seek their information from a vast network of Internet listings, including MySpace.com and the White Pages.
Of the 86 profiles of Dexter Regional High School students she found online, 21 percent had their full names in their profiles; 3 percent had their real full name as their MySpace.com profile name; 16 percent - all girls - had completed surveys in their profiles; while only 15 percent had marked their profiles private to ensure the information would be available only to their friends.
One senior, who didn't have any information on MySpace.com, said after the presentation that she thought it was inappropriate to put personal information on the Web. She said Hitchcock's presentation was a good one.
"I was surprised that it reaches areas like us," she said.
Another senior thought the topic was pretty interesting and "eye-opening." She has no profile online, but said her younger sister does. The student said she would convince her sister to remove some of her information.
The fact that the information can be seen by anyone from anywhere in the world is "kind of scary," she admitted.
Hitchcock said a 2004 national survey indicated that 42 percent of students had been bullied online, 35 percent had been threatened online and 21 percent had received a mean or threatening e-mail.
Yet a staggering 58 percent never told their parents or an adult about the bullying or threats, the expert said.
Scattered hands in the audience were raised when Hitchcock asked if the local students had encountered bullying or threats on the Internet.
Hitchcock warned the students, who can be easy prey, that people are raped, stalked, bullied and threatened by people who have gleaned too much information over the Internet.
"It happens all over the world; don't think it won't happen to you," she said. Hitchcock advised the students to:
•Never provide their true names, addresses, photos or telephone information on these Web sites.
•Never agree to meet someone face to face; and if a meeting is arranged, do it in a public place and don't go alone.
•Never respond to threatening, suggestive or obscene messages.
•Never give out passwords; a friend may not be a friend later and that friend can pretend to be the user online.
•Tell an adult if they have been cyberbullied and keep the written threats.
•Stop talking with a person who changes his stories.
For more information, go to http://www.haltabuse.org
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