Teens and Sexting: What Parents Need to Know
According to internet and mobile safety expert Tim Woda, 22 percent of teen girls and 18 percent of teen boys have texted a nude or semi-nude photo of themselves. This behavior—known as “sexting”—is on the rise, and can have long-term implications.
While teens may think this behavior is harmless, sexting as a minor is a federal crime and children can be prosecuted—a designation that will follow your child into adulthood, affecting college and job applications. “If [teens] are caught sexting, they may be charged with production, distribution and/or possession of child pornography—all federal crimes.”
A new campaign by uKnowKids seeks to inform both parents and children of the dangers of sexting. How can parents help their children to understand the problem?
According to Tim Woda, an Internet and child safety expert and co-founder of uKnow.com: “Sexting does not only affect the reputation of the person involved, it also comes with legal ramifications. In fact, the same minor that sends photos of himself can become both a victim and a perpetrator of child pornography laws. Forwarding such messages to friends or mobile contacts can also come with serious ramifications. There is only a limited number of things a parent can control after a sexting incident, so the best time to engage in this conversation is before you allow them to have a mobile phone or social networking account. When it comes to sexting, being proactive is being safe.”
Here are some important tips to help parents prevent and deal with sexting issues:
- Consequences: Talk about the consequences of taking, sending, or forwarding a sexual picture of someone underage, including yourself. You could get expelled, humiliated by your peers, lose educational opportunities or possibly face serious legal consequenc
- Control: Once an image leaves your phone or computer, you have lost control of it. Phones get lost, computers get stolen, and social networking accounts get hacked. Never take an image of yourself that you wouldn’t want everyone – your family, friends, and teachers – to see.
- Don’t forward: You may find someone else’s photo funny; however, if you forward a sexual picture of someone underage, you are as responsible for this image as the original sender. You could face child pornography charges, go to jail, or have to register as a sex offender.
- Report: Nude photos should be reported immediately to the parents/guardians of the originator, as well as school counselors, so that they can manage the situation.
- Prevent it: As parents, we know that spying does not equal trust. Obviously, going behind your kid’s back to see what they are doing does not help you build a trusting relationship with your child. Stealing a phone at night when your child is asleep, or checking their social media accounts is not the only way to understand what they are doing. There is a difference between spying and being held accountable. A child who is accountable knows they are being monitored, which is why parents of tweens should leverage some sort of monitoring from the minute their child gets a social network account or mobile phone. If it’s part of the initial set up, it is easier for kids to accept for the long run.
Tips courtesy of www.uknowkids.com.