Pam Bucy, former prosecutor and current candidate for the Democratic nomination for Montana attorney general, asked about a dozen middle and high school students Tuesday how many had a cellphone and could take pictures and send text messages.
Just about all of them could. Then, she asked how many of them, had read a manual about how to operate a cellphone safely.
None had, and that sets up kids for a variety of hazards, from sexual predators to cyber-bullying to committing illegal acts themselves of copyright infringement and the distribution of child pornography, Helena Police detective Bryan Fisher told the kids and some of their parents Tuesday in a class-length demonstration at the Front Street Learning Center.
It’s demonstrations like Fisher’s that Bucy said she would like to see across the state should she be elected attorney general. Talking to the kids early could prevent abductions by people the kids meet online, she said.
Now, only three officers across the state are trained in giving the cyber-training to kids. Bucy said a part of her “eSm@rt Kids initiative” as attorney general would be to train enough officers to provide such training to all middle school students across the state each year.
Bucy said bringing the training to all Montana middle schools would be cost-effective education, as the state already has the course materials and would simply have to train more officers.
Fisher is on the Montana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. His training touches on the many ways kids can get in trouble or be victimized online. There’s the mass-broadcasting of potentially personal information on Facebook, YouTube and elsewhere. There are chat rooms, where people can pretend they are something other than themselves.
Predators using Skype videoconferencing try to convince kids to do things, and then they capture images of the screen. And peer-to-peer file-sharing networks give kids access to illegally copied audio and video files, as well as to pornography (including child pornography) that is frequently labeled as something else.
And if students take inappropriate photos of themselves or others and then send them to friends, they could face serious pornography charges, Fisher said.
Nowadays, it’s often the parents asking their kids for help with computers. “And that’s scary,” said Fisher.
Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton and Helena Police Chief Troy McGee joined Bucy at the event. She filed her candidacy papers with the secretary of state Tuesday.
In seven years with the Montana Department of Justice, she has led the department’s efforts to pass legislation on sexual and violent offender registration, among other initiatives. She is also a former Lewis and Clark County prosecutor.
She faces Jesse Laslovich, an attorney with the state auditor's office, in the Democratic primary in the race for attorney general. Tim Fox, a lawyer with the Helena firm Gough, Shanahan, Johnson and Waterman, and longtime legislator Jim Shockley of Victor are seeking the Republican nomination to the post currently held by Democrat Steve Bullock, who is running for governor.
Reporter Sanjay Talwani: 447-4086 or firstname.lastname@example.org