The San Mateo Police Department Master Officer Program identifies an elite group of officers within our department who have earned the title “Master Officer” based not only on their yearly performance evaluations, but also on their years of experience and various expertise.  SMPD is lucky to recognize our largest number of Master Officers ever in 2016, each of whom will be submitting a personal article on a topic of their choice, allowing our community the rare chance of getting to know the people behind the SMPD badge…



By SMPD Master Officer and Detective Laura Sharp

Today, most of us including our kids and teens cannot live without our smart phones, laptops or other devices that allow us to go online.  That’s how most of us keep in touch with friends and family, take pictures, do our homework, do research, find out the latest news, and even shop.  But these devices are even more essential to our youth’s lives because this is their primary method of communication and social interaction.  Keeping up with what social media and networking sites are available is almost impossible as new sites and apps are developed every day.

Today, about 90% of our teens have used some form of social media and at least 75% have at least one profile on the numerous social networking sites.

Here are some statistics about our kids’ use of social media and networking sites that show the dangers which could cause them to be easy targets for online predators and others who might want to harm them.

  • 17% of teens say they have been contacted online by someone they did not know in a way that made them feel scared or uncomfortable.
  • 30% of teems say they have received online advertising that was inappropriate for their age
  • 39% of teens admitted to lying about their age to gain access to websites
  • Many of our teens create multiple profiles to avoid being monitored by parents.

There are many good things about social media, but also many potential dangers.  Our kids don’t always make the wisest choices when they post something to a site and this can lead to problems.  The children and teens of our community are among our most precious assets and protecting them and their future is the first priority for your police officers, especially me.  Because of this, I would ask that you remember a few important tips:

Tips for Kids and Teens

  • Never post your personal information such as cell phone number, home number, address or your present location.
  • Never meet in person with anyone you first met with online. If someone asks to meet you, tell your parents right away.  Whatever they told you on-line may or may not be true.
  • Check with your parents before posting pictures of yourself or others online. Do not post inappropriate pictures of yourself.  Remember, once they are out there in the cyber world, they are there forever, for anyone to see, like say, college recruiters or the hiring department for your future dream job.
  • NEVER share your password with anyone, including your best friend. The only people who should know your password are your parents.
  • If you wouldn’t say something to another person’s face, don’t text or post it online.
  • If anything makes you feel uncomfortable online while gaming, using your cell phone, or working on your computer, talk with your parents right away.

Tips for Parents

  • Talk with your kids. Talk early and often and be open and direct.
  • Educate yourself about the games, apps and social networking sites.
  • Use parental controls and monitor your kids’ use and their screen time.
  • Set ground rules.
  • Friend and Follow your kids on their social media networking sites but don’t stalk.
  • Be a good digital role model. Curb your own bad digital habits and know when to unplug.


Resources for information on internet safety:




Detective Laura Sharp is a 14 year veteran of your San Mateo Police Department.  She was just named the 2015 San Mateo Police Activities League Officer of the Year for her unwavering commitment to the kids of our community and most notably, for her lead role in her nationally recognized juvenile diversion program.  This past year Laura also received the Barbara Hammerman Law Enforcement Award for her critical service to the victim’s and families of domestic violence and that compassionate service was further recognized in October of 2015 by a resolution presented to Laura by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.  Laura is also a diehard S.F. Giants fan and a competitive softball player.

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