Richland Police warn parents about dangers of teens using Snapchat

As the first school bell of the year gets closer for students in the Tri-Cities, police are wanting parents to talk to their kids about the dangers of social media.

Richland Police say Snapchat is being used for several different forms of negative communication.

“So what we’re seeing kids do on Snapchat is send inappropriate messages,” said Richland’s Crime Prevention Specialist Cerise Peck. “There’s a lot of cyberbullying that takes place on Snapchat, and there’s also a lot of inappropriate images that’s sent back and forth.”

In the past 12 months, Richland Police had about 30 cases that involved Snapchat and minor. Peck says it’s not necessarily the predator aspect, but communication and the sharing of inappropriate images by children.

“Most of them are images of minor that shouldn’t have been shared and most of them were distributed by minors that shouldn’t have been distributing them,” she said.

A few cases came close to criminal charges. Though a minor is sharing photos of another minor, possibly the same age, Peck said that is still considered distributing child pornography.

“We have middle schoolers that would make a group chat of inappropriate messages and inappropriate images and share it amongst each other, so it’s happening in our schools here in Richland,” Peck said. “It’s happening in all of the schools in the Tri-Cities. What we need to do is educate ourselves.”

In the app, your exact location can be given out in real-time. To prevent things like this from happening, there are several tips for parents.

Peck suggests parents talk to their children about the dangers – especially the risk of sexting.

To avoid showing a location, users can turn on “ghost mode.” They can also turn off “quick add,” meaning your profile can no longer be visible to mutual friends and potentially strangers.

A screenshot series, hosted by Peck and the Richland Police Department, provides more tips to parents about Snapchat and other social media apps. A class has not been scheduled. However, Peck said parents can contact the department for more information.