Cyber Safety

Online Safety and Sexting

Our second in the series of Online Safety. In this article we will discuss the new trend amongst teens and some adults called Sexting. This will be lengthy so please pardon me.

If you are a parent that keeps in the know when it comes to Tech and teen trends or know someone who does, you have probably heard the stories about Sexting but you may be asking yourself these questions or more:

  • What exactly is Sexting?
  • Should I be worried about it?
  • Is it really the problem it’s made out to be?
  • How do I keep my kids safe?
  • How do I deal with it?

Well, don’t worry your parental little heads, we got you covered and will be going over most of the things you will need to wrap your head around this and decide for yourself how to best deal with this and protect your child(ren).

According to new research published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine in July 2012, one-fourth of teens admitted to having sent a sext. And, 76.2 percent of teens who were asked to send a sext, even if they don’t agree to do it, admitted to having had sexual intercourse, compared to only 38.2 percent of teens who had not been propositioned.

What is Sexting?

Sexting is sending sexually explicit messages via cell phone or instant messenger. It’s the modern equivalent of what we older people used to call phone sex. As technology has advanced and cell phones have the capability to record and send photos and video, the practice of sending suggestive and explicit pictures has increased, especially among teens. A joint study by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl suggests that 20% of teens (ages 13-19) and 33% of young adults (ages 20-26) have shared nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves either via text or by posting online. Teen girls are slightly more likely to do this than boys and 11% of the young teen girls (ages 13-16) admitted to sending suggestive photos of themselves.

Sexting is a natural progression among teens who are curious about sex and sexuality – but it can have consequences. If you suspect your teen is sexting, you should talk to them about the dangers of sending out pictures. It’s also a good idea to remind your teen that those images can be permanent. It may seem fun and risky to send sexy pictures to a current boyfriend, but what happens if the relationship ends? Can that person really be trusted not to do anything with those images? It’s not a chance your teen should take.

On of the most common themes in Parenting magazines and parental help internet sites is “The Internet“. Growing up when the internet was not around or was not as common as it is today makes many parents fear the unknown and that is understandable. Younger parents however have had exposure with computers and the internet and are better equipped to make right choices to keep their children safe on-line. Starting back a few years ago, many help articles discussed the need to monitor your children while they are on-line as it is the key to keeping them safe while they browse the interwebs. However, despite the many software made available, from firewalls to anti-virus to web-filtering and blocking; the number of kids getting into trouble actually increased. How so you may be wondering..

Where did we go wrong?

We’ll go over some general stuff first…

First of all, we need to realize that tools will only do so much, the other part of the equation is up to us as parents to take care of and it is education. We paid so much attention to protecting and sheltering our children that we completely forgot to educate them on what’s good and bad and proper netiquette. We blocked all the bad things and just pretended they were not there. Well guess what? Children are a curious bunch and they will find ways around locks especially when they heard of the “fun” things that are available on-line. Nothing hard in doing a Google search on how to break firewalls, proxies and such.

We failed our children the moment we refused to expose them in an educated way what is out there, what’s good and bad and how to use the internet properly. There is a razor-thin line between being an overbearing parent and one that just lets a child roam free, especially with the internet. First thing we as parents should be doing is educate about what not to do on the net, your conversation should include things like:

  • Your child should NEVER meet face-to-face with anyone they first met online without your permission and/or attendance.
  • Take an interest in your child’s online activities and know with whom he or she is communicating.
  • Teach your child to refrain from talking about sex with anyone they meet online.
  • Do not hesitate to ask questions, especially if your child is acting suspiciously.
  • Teach your child not to reveal personal information.
  • Approve all photos and videos before your child posts them online. Make sure they do not reveal identifying information and are not sexually provocative or inappropriate.
  • How pictures and videos of them in sexual suggestive ways may seem funny to them but may attract the wrong people and how it could impact an employer in a few years that Google’s their name for a potential job.

When it comes to monitoring your child, after you’ve had a full discussion on proper netiquette, you should be doing things like setting up a web proxy if you know how, a common tool like OpenDNS can help in that area. Once you have those installed you need to be focused on their public profiles,

  • What’s on their Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.
  • What are they posting on YouTube if they have an account.
  • Do they have a blog, what are they posting about?
  • Who are their friends on Social Sites?
  • What comes up on Google when you search for them by email or name?

If your teen start to question you about “snooping” you need to take the time to remind them about netiquette and that you are only concerned about their safety and well being. Many teens either don’t know or blank out on the fact that anything they post on-line is in a public domain and no matter how secure a site says they are, people with ill intentions can and do get to hack sites and steal anything they want.

What to look for?

There are way too many signs to look for to go over in this article but you as a parent must take the time to keep yourself educated so you can educate your child(ren) and protect them, it is after all our duty to them. Some common signs are:

  • Do they have older friends you don’t know about or that are familiar to you? – Ask who and why they are. Look at the discussions, comments and private messages. Many boys and girls sneaking off to meet older men and women could be avoided if parents paid attention to this one.
  • You start finding porn on your computer or in the history logs.
  • Your Child receives gifts, calls, mail or texts and private messages from people you don’t know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don’t recognize.
  • Your Child receives gifts from people you don’t know.
  • Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room.
  • Your child spends a lot of time online especially at late hours, especially late at night.
  • Your child withdraws from normal activities.
  • Your child is using an on-line account belonging to someone else.

See Keeping Kids Safe Online for some more on this.

In today’s day and age, it is quite normal for parents to have Social accounts, if you don’t have one, get one and either add your child as a friend or follow them depending on how the site works. You will be surprised at what some children and adults post on-line, in their away messages on chat rooms and such or on their profiles. It’s not uncommon to find phone numbers, addresses, when they are going away, where they are going for vacation and much more.

One thing to keep in mind, DO NOT be afraid to check your child’s on-line footprint despite what they may say or how they may say you are infringing on their privacy, their safety comes first. Remember, I am not trying to tell you how to raise your children or deal with your family affairs, my intention are only to educate and suggest. You are ultimately responsible for your family.

Remember children will grow up and sooner or later their pictures, videos and posts will be revealed when they start looking for jobs, it is a common thing today for potential employers to look at social accounts for material to see if a candidate fits their Company Profile and Etiquette. Imagine if they go into public roles like Teaching, Politics, Managerial positions like CEO or higher or any other positions where something that seemed innocent years ago can hurt them today. Your past comes back to bite you in the ass a lot these days.

Tools to Help

Here are a few tools to help you on your journey…

  • OpenDNS Family Shield – This program uses a slightly different approach to control by blocking content from the router, meaning that every device connected to the Internet in your home is controlled, including game consoles, cellphones using your home’s Wi-Fi, etc. Definitely a good option for families with multiple devices to consider.
  • uKnowKids – This website allows you to set “key words,” and then be alerted anytime your child uses those key words in conversation via texting or social media. It also includes a family locator so you can track the GPS signal of your child’s phone. Nosy significant others beware: It’s illegal to use this product on adults.
  • K9 Web Protection – This free download blocks websites based on more than 70 categories, including pornography. It also automatically sets safe search settings for YouTube, Google and other search engines.

Stay tuned for more in this series. If you have any additional things to share, please comment below. Remember to share this article with others and on Social Sites, share the knowledge.


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