Parent Info on Internet and Cellphone Safety...

 What Are Signs That Your Child Might Be At Risk On-line?

  • Your child spends large amounts of time on-line, especially at night.
  • You find pornography on your child's computer.
  • Your child receives phone calls from men you don't know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don't recognize.
  • Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone 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.
  • You find pornography on your child's computer.
  • Your child becomes withdrawn from the family.
  • Your child is using an on-line account belonging to someone else

Should any of the following situations arise in your household, via the Internet or on-line service, you should immediately contact your local or state law enforcement agency, the FBI, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:

  1. Your child or anyone in the household has received child pornography;
  2. Your child has been sexually solicited by someone who knows that your child is under 18 years of age;
  3. Your child has received sexually explicit images from someone that knows your child is under the age of 18.

If one of these scenarios occurs, keep the computer turned off in order to preserve any evidence for future law enforcement use. Unless directed to do so by the law enforcement agency, you should not attempt to copy any of the images and/or text found on the computer.

Understand, even if your child was a willing participant in any form of sexual exploitation, that he/she is not at fault and is the victim. The offender always bears the complete responsibility for his or her actions.

Instruct your children:

  • to never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met on- line;
  • to never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or on-line service to people they do not personally know;
  • to never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number;
  • to never download pictures from an unknown source, as there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images;
  • to never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing;
  • that whatever they are told on-line may or may not be true
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Cyber Division
Innocent Images National Initiative
11700 Beltsville Drive
Calverton, MD 20705  

Visit http://www.fbi.gov/publications/pguide/pguidee.htm  for more information, tips, and other links about internet safety and your children.                                        

 TIPS TO PREVENT "SEXTING"... 

Q:  How do I know if my child is "sexting"?

A:  No parent or guardian wants to be the last one to know that their child is "sexting".  Try to maintain open lines of communication with your children so that they are not afraid to talk to you if they receive inappropriate photos or are being pressured to send them.

Below are some discussion starters to help you have the "sexting talk" with your child...

  • Have you ever received a sexual message or naked picture on your cell phone?
  • Has anyone ever asked or pressured you to send a nude or sexual picture?
  • Do you think it's OK to send "sexy" messages or images?  Why?
  • What could happen to you if you send or forward a sexual text message or naked picture with your cell phone?

THINK ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES:  of taking, sending, or forwarding a sexual picture of someone underage, even if it's of you.  You could get kicked off of sports teams, face humiliation, lose educational opportunities, and even get in trouble with the law.

NEVER TAKE:  images of yourself that you wouldn't want everyone-your classmates, your teachers, your family, or your employers-to see.

BEFORE HITTING SEND:  remember that you can't control where the image may travel.  What you send to a boyfriend or girlfriend could easily end up with their friends, and their friends, and their friends...

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, and have to register as a sex offender.

REPORT:  any nude pictures you receive on your cell phone to an adult you trust.  Do not delete the message.  Instead, get your parents or guardians, teachers, and school counselors involved immediately.

"SEXTING" Questions and Answers fromNetSmartz© Workshop... 

Many youth believe that anything that they want to do with their bodies and their phones is their business.  Youth enjoy the privacy and freedom that cell phones give them from their parents or guardians.  But when they use that freedom and their cell phones to explore their budding sexuality it's easy to understand why 1 in 5 teens (13-19) reported in having sent a sexually suggestive image or message.  However, when youth engage in sexting the sending or posting of nude or partially nude images of minors, the law takes a very different view.    

Help your children avoid the potential life consequences of sexting by learning more about the issue and talking to your children before they put themselves in a compromising position.    

Q:  Why do youth sext?

A:  Youth sext for many reasons.  They may be pressured by friends or trying to impress a crush.  Some are responding to a sexual text message they've received and others willingly send nude photos of themselves to a boyfriend or girlfriend.  Youth make these decisions without thinking about how their futures may be affected.  It's important for parents and guardians to understand that as technically savvy as their children are, they often don't think about the implications of how quickly digital information can spread via cell phone and the internet.

Q:  What are the consequences of sexting?   

A:  Youth who sext may face charges of producing, possessing and / or distributing child pornography.  For example, if Sue takes a nude picture of herself and sends it to John, she may be charged with the production and distribution of child pornography.  If John forwards the image to Tim, John may be charged with the possession and distribution of child pornography.  As long as the image circulates, anyone with it may face charges.

 Legal consequences are not the only outcomes that children face.  They may face social repercussions, such as being judged or excluded by their peers, communities, and families.  Youth that send the images may become targets of mean comments, rumors, and harassment.  Furthermore, the image may follow them forever, damaging academic, social, and employment opportunities.

Sexting may also profoundly affect the emotional and psychological development of a child.  Trust is broken when an image is forwarded without the creator's consent, such as when a boyfriend takes revenge on an ex-girlfriend by forwarding images intended to be private.  Once an image is spread via cell phone or posted online, it is impossible to get back and can potentially circulate forever; youth who engage in sexting risk reoccurring embarrassment and victimization.  These pictures can even find their way into the hands of those individuals who prey on children and collect child pornography.  This kind of exploitation can be psychologically devastating.

Q:  What can I do to help prevent my child from sexting?

A:  Make sure to review your house rules for online conduct with your children before giving them access to new Web-enabled technologies.  Along with discussing your expectations for their behavior, discuss the consequences for failing to meet those expectations, such as limited access to Web and texting functions.  If children ignore the rules, consider removing cell phones all together; however, this should be your last resort.  Technology is not going anywhere, and it's important that children learn how to use it appropriately.

Talk to them early and often about how digital information and images may travel very far, very quickly.  Make absolutely clear to youth that the moment they send a digital image of themselves from their cell phone, they completely lose control of what happens to it next.  

Visit www.NetSmartz.org for more information, tips, and other links about internet safety and your children.                                       

Common Sense on Cyber Bullying Some facts:

  • 43% of kids age 13-17 have been cyberbullied.
  • Most victims know the person bothering them.
  • 53% of teens admit sending a hurtful message.
  • Only 10% of bullying victims tell their parents.
  • The #1 form? Making private information public.

Several states have made cyberbullying a crime.

  • Common Sense Media is a non-partisan, non-profit resource that helps families and educators teach kids how to be safe and smart in today's 24/7 media world. Go to www.commonsensemedia.org for thousands of reviews and expert advice.

Common Sense says:

  • Give them a code of conduct. Tell them that if they wouldn't say something to someone's face, they shouldn't text it, IM it, or post it.
  • Ask your kids if they know someone who has been cyberbullied. Sometimes they will open up about others' pain before admitting their own.

Tips for elementary school kids:

  • Keep online socializing to a minimum. Let them use sites like Webkinz or Club Penguin where chat is pre-scripted or pre-screened.
  • Explain the basics of correct cyber behavior.  Tell your kids that things like lying, telling secrets, and being mean still hurt in cyberspace.
  • Tell kids not to share passwords with their friends.

Tips for middle school kids:

  • Monitor their use. See what they're posting, checktheir mobile messages.
  • Tell your kids what to do if they're harassed. They shouldn't respond or retaliate, they should block bullies immediately, and they should tell you or an adult they trust. They shouldn't delete the messages because in persistent cases, the content should be reported to a cell or Internet Service Provider.
  • If your kid is doing the bullying, establish strict consequences and stick to them. That goes for mean or sexual comments about teachers, friends, and relatives.
  • Remind them that all private information can be made public. Posts on friends' walls, private IMs, intimate photos, little in-jokes can all be cut, pasted, and sent around. If they don't want the world to see it, they better not post or send it.
  • Don't start what you don't want to finish. Game chat can get ugly fast. Make sure your kids are respectful because hurtful retaliation happens all the time.

Tips for high school kids:

  • Tell kids to think before they reveal. At this age, kids experiment with all sorts of activities, many of which should not be made public. Remind your teens that anything they post can be misused by someone else.
  • Remind them they aren't too old to ask for your help. There are things some kids can handle on their own, but sometimes, they just need help. Coming to their parents isn't baby-ish, it's safe.

www.commonsensemedia.org