Stalking case shows dangerous side of social media

Snapchat and other social media can be manipulated by stalkers.

A student is stalked on social media by her teacher, but the weapons you need to fight back are right at your fingertips.

Parents tell 10News on Facebook they’re frustrated that 26-year-old Cory Hansen was only sentenced to five years of probation for stalking a 12-year-old girl online.

Snapchat users and social media experts say there are settings we should all be checking right now to protect ourselves from online stalkers. While Snapchat is a way to share our lives and funny pictures with friends, predators who stalk your stories can be easily unmasked.

“I use it just to interact with my friends,” says 12-year-old Jacob DeLuca.

DeLuca and his buddies also know the dangers of the app. They say for safety, they only add people who they know.

“You don't want any strangers to add you, because there are some weirdos out there,” says 13-year-old Baker Knight.

A 12-year-old girl says Hansen, her middle school teacher, repeatedly stalked her on Snapchat under different user names. He’d say she was cute, asked if she'd ever kissed anyone and if she liked older men.

She did the right thing by saving several screen shots as evidence and reporting it.

You can also block users, preventing them from sending snaps, viewing chats or seeing your stories.

“Make sure you block them. You don't want them to keep coming back at you with new user names, talking to you,” says Knight.

To prevent someone from stalking where you are, you can disable your location in your phone settings.

“Now, I have it off, so no one can track me and come find me,” Knight says.

“My Story means all your friends can see it for 24 hours,” explains Alyssa Burger.

Although the message itself disappears, someone can take a screen shot. If that happens, Snapchat sends you an alert. But your picture can be secretly saved if the user puts the phone in Airplane mode without closing the app, then takes the screen shot.

Airplane mode also blocks you from sending a snap, which helps to conceal your current location. It'll post when the phone re-connects.

Alyssa Burger, a Hillsborough County teacher, says this is why social media is off limits between teachers and students.

“You don't have any contact with students on social media at all. You don't add them or anything,” she says.

Hansen admitted to finding the student's Snapchat username from her Instagram account. So be careful about the information you share publicly on all of your social media profiles.

Kelli Burns, USF social media expert and associate professor in the School of Mass Communications, also recommends that users:

-Do not add people who you don’t know

-Check the default settings to make sure you have to accept requests

-Check your privacy settings to make sure “Contact Me” and “My Story” is set to “My Friends”

(© 2016 WTSP)


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