“These cases are easy to solve,” noted Capt. Edward F. Hertling Jr. of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. “But the consequences are severe.” He and Investigator Matthew Wilburn detailed the dangers of misusing social media Friday morning to Bland County high school and middle-grade students as part of April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. While they did not mention the Jan. 30 stabbing death of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell of Blacksburg and its connection to social media during their presentation Friday, the two officers were among the law enforcement agencies involved in the case.
Two Virginia Tech students have been charged in connection with Lovell’s slaying. “We all helped with the investigation,” Hertling said before the 90-minute program began Friday morning at Bland County High School. Kimberly F. Sobey, director of the Bland County Department of Social Services, mentioned the Lovell case during comments before the program. “It is so relevant to what we’re trying to do today,” she said. “Young people need to be constantly reminded of the dangers posed by social media. They must know and take all the precautions necessary to protect themselves.”
Sobey also pointed out how susceptible young girls are to attention from males. BCHS Principal Temple Musser agreed. “We have not had a case of an Internet crime in our school,” he said. “But we all need to be aware of the fact it could happen here. We need to protect ourselves against it.”
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The local department of social services, the Bland County Sheriff’s Office, and Bland County Cares sponsored the Internet safety program in recognition of April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Also supporting the cause was Bland County Commonwealth’s, Attorney Patrick White. After the presentation, he said, “I think the program was good and very appropriate.” According to Hertling and Wilburn, Friday was their third presentation of the program. They recently completed training sessions in the field. In a brief address after the program to the few parents attending, Wilburn said, “I’m sure there was at least one victim in the audience today. We’re here to protect you, and we’re here to protect your kids. But we’re not here to raise your kids. That’s your job.”
He shared a story about a case the department investigated last summer involving a 16-year-old male who drove from Seattle, Washington, to Riner to see a teenage girl he met on the Internet. “He was nuts,” the investigator said. “He was obsessed with this girl. He had never even met her before. He came to her grandmother’s house, and the grandmother called the police.” Hertling and Wilburn urged parents to be more technology savvy and regularly check their children’s cell phones and computers.
During their presentation to the students, the law enforcement officers discussed the dangers of teens taking compromising photos of themselves with a cell phone and sending them to a boyfriend or girlfriend. They provided handouts of “Apps You Want To Know: A Parent’s Guide to What You May OR May Not Want to Know About Your Child’s Social Media Life.” The information explained the various texting apps and blogging apps, and sites. So-called secret apps also were identified and explained.