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Teen Online Safety

Is Your Teen Sexting?

Posted by Sue Scheff on June 27, 2018  /   Posted in Featured Article, Internet Safety, Parenting Teens, Sexting, Teen Depression, Teen Help

Would you know if your teen was sexting?

Are they aware of the risks and consequences of sending or receiving a sexual message?

In a recent study by JAMA Pediatrics the sending of sexually explicit videos, images or messages via cell phone texts also known as sexting — has become more common among adolescents. It also revealed that as the teen gets older, engaging in sext messages increases.

As we have witnessed with medicine abuse and other substance use, many parents live in denial that their teen would participate in this activity. Today sexting is considered the new flirting and some youth are not aware of the risks or consequences (potentially legal ones) they can fall into.

Across the globe we have seen sexting scandals in schools, from Duxbury, Massachusetts to Canon City, Colorado to Nova Scotia, Canada – it can happen anywhere. In North Carolina a high school quarterback faced felony charges and a sex offender status when he and his girlfriend were exchanging nude photos.

The consequences of sexting also extend offline. When something that was intended to be a private communication ends up in public, the shame and humiliation can drive our kids to the point of self-destruction. Another consequence of sexting: Experts have found children and teens that sext are more likely to engage in real-world sexual activity  than students who don’t sext.

For generations, many parents have cringed at the thought of having the “birds and the bees” conversation. Today we have to open the door for the “sext talk” without hesitation as children are digitally connected for an average of 9 hours a day. The parents of  Jessica LoganHope WitsellAudrie Pott and Amanda Todd are sadly linked together by the aftermath of sexting and cyberbullying with the loss of their teens to bullycide.

It’s a parent’s responsibility to empower their children and teens with the knowledge to make good choices about how to use all forms of technology and social media. It’s their offline skills that will help them make better online decisions. Your teen may always be an app ahead of you, but they will always need your parenting wisdom echoing in their ear when you’re not there – while making their digital choices.

The sext chat outline for parents to open the dialogue:

  1. Talk about it.Frequently and start early.  Stress the importance of safe sharing online. When your kids hear news of sext crime cases, initiate a conversation. Talk about how sexting leads to negative consequences even for adults. Revenge porn is rising every day. It can happen to anyone at any age.
  2. Make it real.Kids don’t always realize that what they do online is “real-life.” Ask them to consider how they would feel if their teacher or grandparent saw a provocative comment or picture. Remind them there’s no rewind online and no true delete button in the digital world. Comments and photos are not retrievable.
  3. Address peer pressure. Give your kids a way out – blame it on us. Tell them to let their friends know that their parents monitor (and/or spot check) their phones and social media, and you can’t risk losing your devices.
  4. Discuss legal and online consequences. Depending on your state, there can be legal ramificationswhen you send sexual content or even participate in forwarding it. What goes online – stays online. This is your digital landscape.
  5. If you receive a sexual message, never engage in it or forward it. Tell your parent or trusted adult immediately. If necessary, contact the authorities or your school.
  6. Know that your parent is only a call away.Let your child know they can always come to you without judgment. These conversations are about building trust — our kids may always be an “app” ahead of us, but we will always be the adult in the family – lead by example and be there for them.

Has your teen been a victim of sextortion or revenge porn? Maybe involved in a sexting scandal? Know there is help and resources available:

Contributor: Sue Scheff is the founder of Parents Universal Resource Experts, Inc and has published three books. Her latest is Shame Nation: Choosing Kindness and Compassion In An Age of Cruelty and Trolling (Sourcebooks, October 2017).

 

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Teen Online Dating: Digital Love

Posted by Sue Scheff on February 05, 2016  /   Posted in Digital Parenting, Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help

Should teens be looking for love online? Should they be on sites such as Tinder or Match?

Age restrictions on these sites are in place for a reason, however we know that many teenagers will find a way around them if they want to bad enough. It’s not any different then tweens joining social media platforms designed strictly for ages 13 and older.

LoveisRespectLove Is Respect offers advice, resources and tips for parents, teachers and teens.

Everyone deserves to be in a safe and healthy relationship, both in person or online. If your partner is digitally abusive, know their behavior is not acceptable and could be illegal. Check out the tips below for staying safe on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, foursquare and others.

  • Only post things you want the public to see or know. Once it’s online, it’s no longer under your control.
  • Be protective of your personal information. Your phone numbers and addresses enable people to contact you directly, and things like your birth date, the schools you attended, your employer and photos with landmarks may make it easier for someone to find where you live, hang out or go to school.
  • Set boundaries and limits. Tell people not to post personal information, negative comments or check-ins about you on social media. Ask people not to post or tag pictures if you’re not comfortable with it.
  • You can keep your passwords private — sharing passwords is not a requirement of being in a relationship.
  • Don’t do or say anything online you wouldn’t in person. It may seem easier to express yourself when you are not face-to-face, but online communication can have real-life negative consequences.

Abuse or Harassment

  • Don’t respond to harassing, abusive or inappropriate comments. It won’t make the person stop and it could get you in trouble or even put you in danger.
  • Keep a record of all harassing messages, posts and comments in case you decide to tell the police or get a restraining order.
  • Always report inappropriate behavior to the site administrators.

HeartbrokeLeaving an Abusive Relationship

  • If you are leaving an unhealthy relationship, start by blocking your ex on Facebook and other social networking pages. We recommend you don’t check-in on foursquare or other location-based sites or apps — you don’t want your ex or their friends tracking your movements.
  • Adjust your privacy settings to reduce the amount of information that particular people can see on your page. Privacy settings on sites like Facebook allow the user to control how their information is shared and who has access to it. Remember, registering for some apps require you to change your privacy settings.
  • Avoid posting private details on your friend’s pages. They may not have appropriate settings and doing so may allow someone to see your movements and location. The same goes for tagging yourself in pictures.
  • Consider what is called a “super-logoff” — deactivating your Facebook account every time you log off and reactivating it every time you log back on. This way, no one can post on your wall, tag you or see your content when you’re offline, but you still have all of your friends, wall posts, photos, etc. when you log back on.
  • While it is inconvenient and may seem extreme, disabling you social networking page entirely may be your best option to stop continued abuse or harassment.

Your Friends’ Safety

If your friend is in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, be careful what you post about them. Pictures, locations, check-ins and even simple statements can be used to control or hurt them. If you’re unsure of what’s ok to post, get your friend’s permission before you click “Share.”

Source: Love Is Respect

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5 Ways to Protect Your Teenager Online

Posted by Sue Scheff on November 14, 2015  /   Posted in Digital Parenting, Internet Safety, Parenting Teens, Teen Help

TeenOnlineSafetyAn astonishing 75 percent of teenagers have access to smartphones and 24 percent of teens go online “almost constantly.” As a parent of a teenager in this constantly evolving cyber world, it’s overwhelming and frightening thinking of all the potential threats compromising your teens digital and physical security. A Pew Research study found that 90 percent of children have witnessed or experienced cyber bullying within the last year and a study by Drexel University found that 54 percent of minors have reported sexting.

Here are five ways to protect your teenager online:

Take Advantage of Smartphone Applications

There are a variety of free and paid applications that provide parents with a wide range of access to their teenager’s mobile phone activity.

If you’re concerned about your teen stumbling upon adult content, K9 Browser is a free application that blocks adult content and is available for smartphones, tablets and desktop computers. For more thorough access to your teen’s activity, the Norton Family Parental Control application’s paid version allows parents to see the sites their teen is visiting from the computer or mobile device but also allows you to block sites and see text messages.

Create a Contract

Before your teenager receives their first mobile device or personal computer, create a contract spelling out each of your expectations. According to the Family Online Safety Institute, almost 50 percent of teenagers are not concerned that their online reputation today will hurt future goals and 58 percent feel it is safe to post photos or intimate details online. A written and signed contract makes it very clear to your teenager what your expectations are in regard to online activity.

Stay Informed & Up-to-date

Setting up guidelines, boundaries and privacy software is not enough. The Internet and cyber criminals are changing so fast that as soon as you have a grasp on the newest social media or application and its potential threats or privacy terms, it has already evolved. To stay up-to-date on the latest cyber security news and tips, bookmark LifeLock Unlocked.

Mark All Profiles as Private

The most important takeaway for your teenager, is that nothing is temporary online. Even if they delete a post, a photo or an account, it can be easily retrieved and anyone can copy or save it. Besides filtering what he or she posts, ensure your teenager’s online profiles are private. Do not rely on the site’s default settings and adjust settings accordingly. Stress to your teen that this does not mean what he or she posts is now “safe” but it does make it more difficult for individuals to access.

Safeguards Passwords & Change Them Frequently

Identity theft is just as much of a threat for your teenager as it is for adults. Teach your teen how to choose safe and secure passwords that are changed every three to six months to ensure maximum security. Advise your teen not to share passwords with anyone besides parents or guardians.

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