cyber safety

In January, members of the Secret Service Westchester Office visited Greenville to give a presentation to parents about cyber safety. If you missed the presentation, below is some of the valuable information that they shared. 


  • Sending mean messages

  • Posting inappropriate pictures

  • Resharing images of other people 

  • Talking to people they don’t know

  • Visiting adult sites

  • Waiting until it’s too late to ask for help- tell an adult!


  • Messages and comments don’t delete. Your messages, as soon as you hit send, are no longer yours. Cell phone providers, and companies such as Snapchat, Facebook, and Xbox can access your messages even if you think you’ve deleted them. There is no such thing as end-to-end encryption, no matter who advertises it. 

  • Photos contain your location. Photos have metadata embedded in them. That means every photo you take, even if it’s a screenshot or you’re using a VPN, contains your device type and exact location. This information can be easily accessible by people with ill intentions once you hit send. 

  • Children can be charged with child pornography. If you are under the age of 18, sending a nude, or partially nude photo of yourself is a crime. You can be charged for taking the picture and sending it, and the person you send it to can be charged with receiving it. Additionally, if the person you send it to shares it with others, they can be charged with distributing the photo.

  • Leaving hateful comments can be a crime. Hateful comments online can lead to criminal charges if those messages cause someone to self-harm. 

  • Instagram can create other accounts without your permission. If you have an Instagram account, you have agreed to their terms of service. In those terms, it says they can create other accounts on your behalf (using your name, phone number, and email address) without your knowledge. The app uses this as a money maker, they sell your information to other companies for a profit. Those companies then use your information to create accounts, and inflate their user numbers for investors. 

  • Know the country your apps are from. The Secret Service is seeing an increase in apps created in Korea, Russia, and Nigeria where users unknowingly permit the app to track them, sell their info, and create other profiles with their personal information. 

  • Fraud through the Internet. Keep your computers up to date, and keep an antivirus on your wifi system and/or devices. If someone in your house clicks on a bad link, the person sending the malware can infect your device, get into your internet, and then obtain information from other devices linked to your internet. Additionally, consider using facial recognition or keychains for passwords, as malware can track keystrokes to obtain passwords. 


Many of the cases that the Westchester Secret Service Office has been seeing involve 13-14 year-old boys being groomed through a gaming app. Over 3-12 months, a “stranger” online exchanges friendly messages through a game with the child. Eventually, they develop trust and move their communication over to Snapchat or Instagram. The stranger then asks the person for a picture of their face. The kids think, since it’s just a picture of their face, it’s innocent. Unfortunately, these “bad actors” then photoshop the face onto an inappropriate photo, and make it look realistic. They then use the information found online (like friends and family names and sports teams/clubs) to extort the child for money, threatening to send the photo to their loved ones if they don’t pay. 


  • Your child should know every single one of their followers on social media. In most cases, they should know the person from meeting them in person. Unless they know who the person is with absolute certainty, they should not engage with their accounts online. 

  • Be aware of what people online are asking of your child. Are they asking for photos? Money? Personal information? These are all red flags, and your child needs to tell an adult. 

  • Report ANYONE who sends your child photos, or asks them for photos. 


  • Many times when victims report a sextortion crime to the police, it’s too late. The first people kids often tell are their peers. Be alert, and be involved in your child’s life so they feel comfortable coming to you when something feels off. Similarly to how you’re involved in knowing whose houses they are having a sleepover, you should be aware of who they’re talking to online.

  • People used to be fearful of a kid being approached in a store or a parking lot, now, strangers are approaching kids through cell phones, switch, Xbox, TikTok, Snapchat, etc. 

  • Raise kids to be cautious and aware,but don’t be too restrictive. It could result in them sneaking around. Similarly, don’t give consequences for telling the truth. 

  • Give kids a “buy-in.” When talking about things like social media accounts and apps they want to download, make the conversation a negotiation. This way, the kids are agreeing to what they can and can’t do. Kids, just like adults, will be more likely to comply when they feel like they are part of the decision-making process. 

  • It all comes down to communication. Yes, the sex talk is awkward, but the sexting talk is even more awkward, especially after it’s too late. Build trust, and make it known that you’re comfortable talking about it. If you’re not comfortable, make sure your child has a trusted adult they can go to. 

  • Predators are scouring the internet for information. While they may not be approaching your child on TikTok, they are using it as a place to gather information to eventually build trust. By the time a predator reaches out to a child, they have already learned much about that child online. In many cases, the predator has been researching for weeks or months, as it allows them to know exactly what to say to get a child to respond. Google your child’s name, social media handles, and email addresses to see what you can find publicly available online.  

  • If you’re having the technology-use conversation with your child for the first time, consider telling them to treat their phone and the internet like a person. If they wouldn’t walk up to a stranger and give them their personal information, or say the things they’re commenting online, then they shouldn’t be saying it at all. Ask, would you do this in public? Would you be willing to tell a parent about it? 

  • Use parental controls to monitor what your kids can download. 

  • If your child becomes a victim, contact your local police department or school resource officer immediately. Break off all contact, but save everything. Do not delete any accounts or messages, and follow instructions from local law enforcement. If your child sent photos online to someone, the police can work with NCMEC to take the photos down. 

  • If a child asks for money, for example, an Apple or Visa gift card, in lower denominations ($25-$50), ask questions. Many online predators who extort children ask for a gift card as a “one-time” payment. However, it’s never a one-time payment and will continue happening until an adult stops it.  



    • A service to help remove online nude, partially nude, or sexually explicit photos and videos taken before a child turned 18. 


    • Powered by Thorn, Nofiltr’s mission is to empower young people with resources to safely navigate sexual exploration and risky encounters in their connected world.


    • AMAZE harnesses the power of digital media to provide young adolescents around the globe with medically accurate, age-appropriate, affirming, and honest sex education they can access directly online—regardless of where they live or what school they attend. AMAZE also strives to assist adults—parents, guardians, educators and health care providers around the globe—to communicate effectively and honestly about sex and sexuality with the children and adolescents in their lives.


    • NCMEC has a team of analysts dedicated to speeding up the process of getting images taken down and helping remove some of that burden from victims. NCMEC can report directly to companies, monitor for takedown, and continue to send additional notices about images on your behalf.


    • NCMEC provides more information on what sextortion is, what to do if you or someone you know is being sextorted, red flags to look for, and what is being done about sextortion. 


    • NCMEC provides a wide range of support services for victims and their families including crisis intervention, emotional support, referrals to appropriate community agencies and mental health professionals, peer connection, and reunification assistance.


    • NCMEC provides resources for survivors of sexual abuse material. 

  • Being a Trusted Adult

  • Gaming Safely

  • Internet Safety at Home

  • Sextortion: What Parents Should Know

  • Think Before You Send

  • Talking to Teens About Sexting