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Teens and Social Media Safety

GRAY (WGME) -- Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook... the list goes on. And with teens on so many different social media sites and apps, it's sometimes hard to keep track of it all. That's why local schools are organizations are looking to educate students and parents about social media sites and some of the dangers that come along with the internet.

Of course, it's not often high school students know more than their teachers, but when it comes to social media the kids are the experts. Grown ups are now playing catch up.

"What are the dangers of using certain applications like Snapchat and Facebook and Twitter," said Michael Mercer, an educator for the local non-profit Keeping Kids Safe. "We go over the dangers because the bad guy knows these applications very well."

Mercer goes to area high schools to talk about what can happen when teens send out a picture or enter a chat room. He says many of them don't realize all of their information is stored on the internet, and people who wish to do them harm can use that information against them.

"It doesn't disappear," said Mercer about the app Snapchat. "I know a lot of kids think well snap chat disappears in 30 seconds. Well it doesn't disappear. That image is sent somewhere and it's stored somewhere."

Teens admit they don't look at social media that way.

"We don't really think about that," said Gray New Gloucester Sophomore Megan Ruby. "We're just like oh it's a new friend. Let's hang out sometime or talk. It's not personal." 

But Mercer warns it can get personal. Cyber bullying, sexting and child abductions, it's all done through the apps kids know and love. Without the proper education teens can become the victims.

"I always tell the kids you're leaving a digital footprint whereever you go it's always there," said Mercer. "It will follow you forever."

According to a Pew Research study, 95 percent of teens are online and 75 percent of them have cell phones. School officials say they know this and say it's time to get more involved.

"Teenagers are going to make mistakes and we need to make sure they're held accountable but we also need to provide them with good information so they can make better decisions," said Gray New Gloucester High School Principal Eric Klein.

And even though teens know a lot about their phones, they say the extra education is helpful.

"I think it sort of hits home a lot harder when they show you like a thirteen year old girl who was abducted when somebody showed up at her house, said Gray New Gloucester Sophomore Clara Phillips about the educational assembly at her school. "I think it sort of makes it a lot more real the situation."