Fraga asked how many had participated in the first of the two sessions. The vast majority of hands went up.
“Good,” he said, “You left with the right amount of fear.”
He was only half-joking. The point of the sessions, an initiative launched by the sheriff’s office in November, is to educate parents about the rapidly evolving digital world their children inhabit. But the frightening nature of the material highlighted in the classes also aimed to ensure that parents take the issue seriously and understand the need to keep pace with technology.
Take the case of a Loudoun teen who snapped a picture of herself in a miniskirt and midriff-baring tube top. Her intent was to mock a classmate’s outfit as a joke among a small group of friends, said Deputy James Spurlock, who leads the safety sessions.
The girl posted the picture to Snapfish, an online photo-sharing service. Because the photo was sent directly from her phone, and because her phone’s “location services” function was enabled — a feature that shows geographical information about where a communication originated — the picture included embedded data that revealed where the girl was when she took the photograph, Spurlock said.
A few days later, Spurlock said, a strange man showed up at the front door of the girl’s home. He told the teen’s mother, who answered the door, that he wanted to meet her daughter. He had a copy of the picture in hand.
The girl’s mother called the sheriff’s office, which sent someone to the house. The man, who had driven from New York to try to meet the teen, was not arrested, Spurlock said.
“It was creepy, yes,” he said. “But there’s no law against creepy.” The man returned to New York, and Loudoun authorities notified New York authorities about the incident, Spurlock said.
A chorus of murmurs rippled through the auditorium in response to the disturbing account.
The audience at Briar Woods was among an estimated 1,050 Loudoun parents who have heard Spurlock’s presentations since November.
Spurlock has been conducting community outreach on the topic for years, but his presentations evolved into a more organized and wide-reaching effort last year, when the sheriff’s office partnered with the public school system to offer the two-part session across the county.
Loudoun Sheriff Mike Chapman said the school system agreed that parents would benefit from a more thorough understanding of how children interact with others in the constantly changing technological landscape.
“As the technology changes, so has [Spurlock’s] presentation,” Chapman said. “Even now, as new technology comes out, we’ll have to redefine and readjust . . . but we want to get it out there to the parents, so they know what their children have access to and the dangers they face out there.”