Social media threats continue to grow in the aftermath of mass shootings

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Platforms that were created to connect people has taken a sinister turn for some.

After the recent mass shootings in the U.S., police officers across the country are using social media to help find suspects that make threats online– before they can harm anyone.

“Once it’s out there on social media, it’s out there,” said Family Counseling Services Executive Director Susan Johnson.

Threats of violence continue to become common online nationwide.

“We are made aware of social media threats or any kinds of issues on social media the same way we are with other calls,” Lt. Kurt Whisenand said. “Someone will either forward us information or someone will call.”

Johnson says many people will post threats online to draw attention.

“[They’re] feeling some power,” said Johnson. “‘Look I got people to react! Nobody ever listens to me, but when I go on social media and I say these things, people pay attention to me’.”

Rockford Police say being behind a screen may give some social users a false sense of anonymity

“Luckily, a lot of that stuff can be tracked and it’s difficult to cover your tracks,” Whisenand said. “Every device you use, every time you get on the internet, that can be tracked.”

As students are going back to school, Johnson said it’s important parents are aware of the apps their kids are using.

“It’s an easy babysitter,” Johnson said. “I don’t know if parents really recognize the power of social media.”

While parents aren’t likely to be aware of all their kids online usage, they can keep an eye on any changes happening in their children’s demeanor.

“If that behavior continues, then you might want to follow up with a mental health professional,” Johnson said.

Investigators say that threats made on social media, or in anyway, are taken very seriously.

“You don’t want to have the one incidence that you kind of just dismissed as being false or not valid and have that turn out to be true,” Whisenand said. “It’s no different from any other threat that we’re made aware of. Whether it’d be written or verbal or via social media, we’re going to investigate those fully.”

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