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Connect With Your Kids | Sexting and Social Networking

September 24, 2013

While there are many advantages to the Internet, there are many dangers that children face while on the Internet. Children can inadvertently be exposed to inappropriate materials while searching on the Internet. Social networking can be a great way to get in touch with friends, but it can also be a way for young people to be targeted. Other growing concerns are cyber-bullying and the misuse of digital images – the taking of suggestive photos and forwarding them on a cell phone or across the Internet.

The best defense is to address these issues with your child before they happen. Set up an agreement on when, how often, and how the computer and cell phones will be used.  Discuss with your child the ramifications of posting on the internet, by explaining how something posted can be out there indefinitely. On this site, you will find a lot of information you can use to help you and your family. Together we can keep our children safe.

"The Misuse of Digital Images, also known as 'Sexting.'"

What Parents Should Know
• What is sexting: the act of sending a nude or semi-nude image via cell phone.
• Teenage sexting is not limited to just a cell phone but often can include images sent online through e-mail or other electronic methods
• One In five teens has sent some sort of electronic image of themselves nude or semi-nude
The Statistics
• More teenage girls then teenage boys have sent such an image, but the numbers are close
• 39% of teens have sent or posted a sexually suggestive message.
• Teen boys are ahead of teen girls in sending or posting sexually suggestive messages.
• Who are teens "sexting"?
     o Most "sexts" are sent to a current boyfriend or girlfriend.
     o 21% of have sent such an image to someone they would like to "hook up" with (or date)
• A minority of teens whose parents pay for their cell phones have sent sexually suggestive text messages (3%)
• Teens are likely more likely to "sext" if they have unlimited data plans. 19% of teens with unlimited data plans have sent sexually suggestive texts, compared to the 8% that have limited text messages.
• 8% of 17-year-olds have sent sexually provocative images and 30% have received sexually suggestive images.

Tips for Parents
• Talk with your teen and encourage an open dialogue; let them know if they have sent sexually suggestive images of themselves in the past, they won't be in trouble.
• Limit text usage not by viewing your teen's phone but through the number of texts they are allotted a month.
• When having "the talk" with your teen, include a part about sexting.
• Stay informed with current online trends by talking with your teen about what they are doing online.
• If your teen has received a sexually suggestive photo either on the phone or in an e-mail, contact an official and help your teen to take steps to not receive any more images:
o Do not forward it.
o Let the sender know it is not acceptable and your teen does not wish to receive any photos like this.
o After consulting with the proper officials, delete the image.
• Most importantly, just talk with your teen about the dangers of sexting or sending sexually suggestive images online.

What Teens Should Know
• Once a digital image is out there, it's nearly impossible to "erase". It's easy for anyone to forward on. People who you don't even know may see it, and people who you know, but never wanted to see it, may also end up seeing it.

Tips for Teens
• If you would be embarrassed if an adult (think, your grandma), saw your photo, then don't send it!
• If you receive a sexually suggestive image:
     o Notify a trusted adult immediately.
     o Take steps to let the sender know you do not want to receive those images.
     o Delete the image as soon as you can.
     o Do not forward it on.
• Talk with your parents about what you are doing online; open communication with the parents will help you.
• For the girls:  guys may end up respecting you more if you don't send an image.
• For the guys:  girls are going to think you are a creep if you ask for them to send an image.

Social Networking

What is a social networking site?
A social networking site is a Web site that allows users to create a specialized online profile to communicate with other users or members. These profiles can contain a user's personal information like his or her name, birthday, location, education, employment and really any other information the user decides to share. They may include photos and videos of the user as well. These profiles can be shared with other members of the social network.

A few examples of social networking sites are: Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, Classmate.com, Twitter, and FourSquare.

Some facts about the Internet and social networking sites
• 93% of teens use the Internet
• Almost 90% of young teens, aged 12-13, go online.
• Teens that go online every day are more likely to use a social networking site.
• Almost two-thirds of teens using the Internet get their news and current events from a news website.
• Of the teens that create content online (i.e. post photos, videos, artwork or stories), 38% of them have shared their content.
• Two-thirds of teens have sent a private message to a friend through an online social networking site.

Tips for parents
• Depending on your child's age, ask to see their online social network profile or go online with him or her to review the privacy settings to make sure they are not sharing personal information.
• Explain your reasoning behind wanting to see what your child is posting on the Internet – open communication is important.
• Social Networking sites can be a breeding ground for child predators to get information about your child that at first glance seems innocuous for them to share. Be vigilant with the content your child is posting.
• Talk with your child about what information they are sharing and what information they should be keeping private.
• If your child is using a social networking site, be aware they may also be using an instant messenger function within the site, allowing them to "chat" directly with other users.
• Create your own online social networking profile and "friend" your child.
• Many online social networking sites allow for anonymous reporting of threats or inappropriate content. Make yourself aware of these policies so you can report any threats that your child may receive.

Material provided by Joseph Foster, Attorney General

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