The goal of the KV monthly MRIR Message is to educate you on circumstances that increase the level of risk to you or your family with regard to personal safety and thereby enable you to manage it more effectively. For example, knowing that most sexual crimes are crimes of opportunity should impact how you and your children view your surroundings.

What is the risk in sexting?
The difference with sexting as a risky behavior is the consequence. Because everything sent electronically remains available to send ad infinitum, these pictures will haunt the senders for an equally long time resulting in ruined reputations, lost jobs, college scholarships denied, and in some case, arrests on child pornography charges as a result of being identified in sexually-suggestive pictures that have appeared on the internet. In Pennsylvania, six high school students were arrested on child pornography charges: three girls who allegedly took pictures of themselves were charged with manufacturing, disseminating or possessing child pornography and three boys who were found with the explicit photos on their mobile phones were charged with possession of child pornography. In spite of attempts by teens to disguise themselves in pictures (taking shots of body parts and-being careful not to include faces), authorities continue to bring charges and prosecute all adolescents involved regardless of whether they were the sender or receiver of the message in an effort to reinforce that this practice may seem harmless but in fact, it is illegal.

On an additional note to parents, in some cases charges can be brought against parents in civil court for supplying the phone as in purchasing and paying for it.

How widespread is sexting?
Jim Brown, a school resource officer at Glen Este High School in Ohio, told the Cincinnati Enquirer: “If I were to go through the cell phones in this building right now of 1,500 students, I would venture to say that half to two-thirds have indecent photos, either of themselves or somebody else in school. They think they have the right to decide….the next thing you know it’s on YouTube….then they want to retrieve their good reputation and they can’t." Part of the problem is alcohol fueled parties where inhibitions disappear and explicit photo ops occur.

Why do students engage in sexting?
According to the national study mentioned above, most teenagers were sending the explicit messages to boyfriends or girlfriends, More than 40% of the girls surveyed said they were uncomfortable but sent the pictures under pressure from boyfriends. Some said they were sending the pictures to get a date or to someone they had met online. Others said they were trying to make someone reconsider who had broken off a relationship or to create jealousy. Unfortunately, these pictures can remain on the internet and in cyberspace for decades. Clearly, not all students are engaging in this behavior. The difference seems to be the level of maturity of the teen and the parental relationship. If a teen is not mature enough to make responsible decisions with regard to phone use, then it is the parents’ responsibility to act accordingly. Parents need to share their values, their expectations, and their counsel along with a clear explanation of the consequences and be prepared to hold their teens accountable.

What can you do now to start managing risk with regard to sexting?
Help them understand that they have no control where text messages may go, who will see them, or how long they will be available for someone in the future to see. Encourage them to focus on what they want to achieve in their life – will sexually explicit pictures help them or hurt them in their career or relationships? Talk to other parents about how you can support your teens in managing risk and making responsible decisions.

The goal of the KV monthly MRIR Message is to educate you on circumstances that can increase the level of risk to you or your family with regard to personal safety and thereby enable you to manage it more effectively. Sexting can put you at risk because it is illegal - in addition to the potential emotional damage that can occur.

TEENS - Before you hit send...

- Don’t assume text messages will remain private (40% of teens and young adults said they shared messages that we intended to be private).
- Don’t do something under pressure. There is no changing your mind once you hit send.
- Consider the recipient’s reaction. While it may be a joke to you, the receiver may see it differently.
- Remember that cyberspace is forever. Once something is sent via cell phone or internet, it exists permanently, which could cause future problems when applying for a college or job or in a relationship. Anyone can find those photos or messages including your family, your children, and your enemies.
- Even if a private message or post is deleted by the sender, it may have been passed on and posted by dozens of others. Nothing in cyberspace is truly anonymous.

PARENTS – Tips to prevent...

- Talk to children and teens about cell phone and internet safety. Let them know that anything sent via cell phone or internet is not private. Talk about what is okay for public information and what is private.
- Know who your kids are spending time with on line and on the phone. It’s your duty as a parent.
- Be aware of what your teens are posting publicly. Check out Facebook and other public sites.
- Set behavior expectations about what is appropriate in any type of communication.
- Insist that cell phones and laptops be left in a public area in the home before going to bed to prevent the temptation to log on or chat late at night.
- Keep all internet and cell phone accounts in the parent’s name.
- Have all passwords and parental controls be under parents’ control.
- Contact your cell phone provider to learn more about restrictions parents can place on cell phones.

Source: National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy

KV Safety Tip for 8 and under:
Tell your parents if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable on line or in person.

KV Safety Tip for ‘Tweens:
Do not text personal information over your phone or the internet. You have no control over where it will go.

KV Safety Tip for Teens and Older:
Never send sexually explicit pictures over the phone or internet. You could go to jail, be labeled a sex offender for life, and your parents could be sued.

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