Teens and technology are a constant in many parents’ lives. Most parents can’t even imagine their teen without their cell phone or computer. With all the benefits that technology provides, it can also bring new dangers about which parents have no idea. Two of the most common of these new dangers are sexting, sending sexual photos via text message, and cybersex, role playing or writing of a sexual nature. In order to keep teens safe, parents need to know about these two dangerous practices.
From a historical standpoint some sort of sexting has occurred since the beginning of communicating over distances. Now, with the ability to send photos and movies almost instantly, this type of communication has become quicker and more common, particularly among teens.
What it is? Sexting is the sending of racy/obscene photos of oneself or participating in sexually explicit conversations via cell phone.
Is it illegal? Sexting is a sticky subject legally. In many states, sending or receiving explicit photos of anyone under the age of 18 is considered distributing or possessing child pornography with all applicable penalties. This law also applies to those under the age of 18 who are sending or receiving sexting-type photos. If these photos are stored on a device or sent to someone else, the penalties can be even stiffer.
How is it dangerous? Aside from the inherent dangers of sending sexual texts and/or photographs, most teens don’t think that the texts or photos they send to a boyfriend or girlfriend will ever come back to haunt them. Unfortunately, teens share a lot of things and sexually explicit photos tend to be one of those things. Particularly after a bad break-up, a teen can find that those “private” pictures have made their way around to several other teens. Additionally, those photos can turn up on the Internet which will add to the exposures that they received. Teens also put themselves into a position that can hurt them in the future as sexually suggestive photos to resurface at the worst times, particularly with employers and college checking candidates’ online lives in addition to their resume and grades.
How do I keep my teen safe? Parents need to have a very serious conversation with teens about using technology appropriately and the possible ramifications of sending racy photos via text message. Most teens generally think they are invincible and that anything they do won’t negatively affect them. Parents need to remember that teens lack the cognitive development to consider long-term consequences of their actions. If you think your teen is involved in sexting, you should talk to your teen about it and let them know that they can have their cell phone privileges removed or severely limited. Parents also need to be able to check their teen’s cell phones regularly for inappropriate texts.
Cyber-sex or “Cybering”
Once again, writing about or role playing in a sexual manner isn’t anything new. Literature is full of sexually charged stories that caused quite a stir for their times. However, now, due to the anonymity of the internet, more people are participating in role playing simulations, taking them to a sexual nature regardless of the original purpose of the game.
What is it? Cyber-sex is the writing or role playing of a sexual nature in some sort of online format. This format can be in a chat room, on a bulletin board, or within a role playing game such as Second Lift or World of Warcraft. Most of the time, the participants never meet in real life therefore they don’t know the person they are cybering with outside of the format. However, many sexual predators use these chat rooms, boards, and role playing games order to meet young males or females who are interesting in taking the game to a real-life level, usually with disastrous results.
Is it illegal? Technically, as long as all participants attest to being of the legal age of consent, which varies from state to state, cybering isn’t illegal. However, when one person in the simulation tries to take it to real life with the knowledge that the person they are talking to is a child, the adult in the situation can be arrested for several different sexual crimes against a minor. It is very difficult to hold the website host responsible, particularly if the teen involved falsified their age when registering on the site.
How is it dangerous? Many times, teens will eagerly agree to taking their online lives into their real lives as many don’t think that anything bad would happen to them. They also tend to believe what they are told online, not thinking that the person they are talking to could be lying. Once teens extend an invitation to their new “friend” to meet in real life, they are treading in a very dangerous area. Pedophiles count on the trust that teens have for their online companions and the fact that they generally don’t believe that they can get hurt from participating in cybering.
How do I keep my teen safe? Communication is key to keeping kids safe in this situation. Remind your teen that they don’t really “know” the people they talk to online and that they must never give out any personal information to someone online. They also need to know that people aren’t always who you think they are, particularly when online. Parents should be sure that computers are kept in a common area. However, with the rise of tablet computers and smart phones, it is more difficult to monitor a teen’s online time so parents need to be more vigilant about their teen’s online presence.
Keeping teens safe when they are online can be difficult, but parents need to be aware of the dangers that can be online and alert their teen to them. By having clear rules and consequences about technology use, parents can keep their teen safe when they are in the cyber-world.
Janet Wilson is a professional blogger that provides news and information on finding incest defense lawyers.