Barrington police charge teens with sexting, cyber-stalking

Police to parents: Check your children's phones

Posted 4/10/18

Barrington Police School Resource Officer Josh Melo is asking local parents to watch closely their children's online activity, following the arrest of two Barrington teenagers last week.

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Barrington police charge teens with sexting, cyber-stalking

Police to parents: Check your children's phones

Posted

Barrington Police School Resource Officer Josh Melo is asking local parents to watch closely their children's online activity, following the arrest of two Barrington teenagers last week.

On Friday, April 6, police charged a 14-year-old Barrington boy with child pornography-prohibited and cyberstalking-first offense, and a 14-year-old Barrington girl with minor electronically disseminating indecent material "sexting" prohibited.

Police said the two teenagers exchanged nude pictures of themselves while using the online app Snapchat. It is also alleged that the boy shared the picture of the girl with a few fellow students at Barrington High School and then opened a fake Snapchat account in the girl's name and began posting things about her. 

The girl's friends saw the account and told her; she brought the issue to a school official who shared the information with the BHS School Resource Officer Melo.

After completing the investigation, police charged the two teenagers. Their cases will be sent to Rhode Island Family Court. 

Officer Melo said he spends a lot of his time at BHS dealing with online situations and social media issues, including cyber-stalking, cyber-bullying and sexting. He said parents should check their children's cell phones as often as possible to make sure they are not getting themselves into trouble.

Officer Melo said there are Barrington Middle School students who have social media accounts and share information with more than 1,000 "friends." He said it is very likely that the local students only know a few hundred of the contacts and could be communicating with other individuals who are dangerous.

"We know sex offenders are using these apps to talk to young kids," said Officer Melo. "People are trying to befriend the kids online."

The school resource officer said police previously warned kids about not talking to strangers by using terms like "stranger danger." But the advent of social media has resulted in more potential problems with online communication. 

"I think parents should be careful. They need to check their children's phones … (social media) is opening them up to some dangerous things," he said.

As for Snapchat, Officer Melo urged parents to think twice before allowing their kids to use the app. 

"They should hold off on Snapchat for as long as possible," he said. 

The app allows individuals to share photos with each other; the images then "disappear" after a few seconds. Officer Melo cautioned that the while people cannot see the pictures, Snapchat keeps them on file for years. 

"They're kept on a database," he said, adding that police will often subpoena the company for the images when they are involved in an investigation. 

Barrington Police Chief John LaCross said he plans on speaking to local high school students about their online activity soon.

"We trust our kids. We give them a cell phone. We pay a couple hundred dollars a month. It gets expensive. There should be some restrictions," he said. "It would be prudent for parents to look through the cell phones... (Parents can) call the station and we'll give them some technical help, or call the high school."

The police department phone number is 437-3937. The high school's number is 247-3150. 

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