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Internet becoming an increasingly dangerous place

There was a time — and frankly, not all that long ago — when parents were faced with easily identified threats in overseeing the safety of their children.

Be wary of strangers was a common one. Always let us know where you are and who you are with were others.

That was then. This is now.

The internet turned that proposition completely on its head and now the emergence of AI threatens to spin it round and round.

AI, or artificial intelligence, is downloadable software that can be used to do anything from cheat on tests and essays to alienation of stressed populations.

Here’s what Marquette County Sheriff Greg Zyburt thinks might be ahead.

“Just because someone sends a face picture or sends a video, it doesn’t mean it’s them. It could be anyone and (young people) need to be aware, especially in the coming years with AI … it’s gonna make it even harder to tell who it’s coming from. It’s going to be so easy to get swindled.”

The greater Marquette community continues to mourn the tragic passing in 2022 of Marquette Senior High School student Jordan DeMay, who died by suicide after experiencing sexual extortion at the hands of malicious scammers from outside the country.

“If it happens to them,” Zyburt said, “(young people) need to reach out to someone they trust: parents, a teacher, school resource officer, a counselor, but you need to do it as soon as possible. If there is sextortion, like that type of thing, there is going to be embarrassment and consequences, but in a week it’s going to be old news and it’s just not worth taking your life or being victimized.”

And a local branch of the Jehovah’s Witness World Headquarters is also raising concerns about the practice of cyberbullying.

The JWWH recommends the government website stopbullying.gov to keep parents informed. It details the kinds of behaviors parents and caretakers should look out for in their children, if they suspect they are being cyberbullied.

We join Sheriff Zyburt, the JWWH and many other organizations and individuals in reminding young people that resources are available to assist in solving the kinds of dilemmas being discussed here.

Zyburt may have put it best when he advised, simply, “Be aware.”

— The Mining Journal, Marquette

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