Using Instagram? Jefferson County DA has warning about safety issues

GOLDEN, Colo. - The Jefferson County district attorney's Child Sex Offender Internet Investigations Unit, also known as CHEEZO,  has a warning for adults and children about safety issues when using Instagram and other social networking sites.

Instagram enables users to take a photo, apply a digital filter to it, and share it on a variety of social networking services.  Instagram is very popular with people using iPods, iPads, iPhones and Android phones. Users can follow their friends, or even people they don’t know, in a manner similar to Twitter.

The unit has received complaints from young teens concerned about Instagram, a popular online photo-sharing and social networking site.

Complaints made to the district attorney's office concern strangers leaving inappropriate comments on photos posted by teens.  Many of the comments from strangers are unsuitable, sexual or graphic in nature, and may be directed specifically to the young users, the DA's office said Sunday.

As with most social networking sites, users sign up to participate in Instagram. They are asked for a user name.  Many times, teenagers use their real first and last name. There is also a field for teens to provide their cell phone numbers. This information becomes public to anyone who visits the site and provides strangers with cell phone number, another way to contact kids.

"Teenagers, and adults as well, should be very cautious when joining sites such as Instagram," warns District Attorney Pete Weir.  "Consider the personal information you are posting online. This information, as well as photos, becomes public for anyone to see."

The unit's number one message for online and cell phones continues to be that if you don’t know someone face-to-face, you shouldn’t communicate directly or indirectly with them.  Teens and adults are encouraged to set privacy settings to prevent strangers from viewing your information.

Parents need to be vigilant in checking the apps on their kids’ electronics to ensure they are not compromising their safety with personal information.  Parents are encouraged to keep an open dialog with their kids about the sites they visit and the information they post.

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