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Photo Leaks: The Latest Scary Digital Trend

January 2, 2015 at 3:18 PM

teens on phoneToday, news stories about teens getting caught up in sexting and resulting photo leak scandals are a dime a dozen. As parents, we usually say to ourselves “that could never happen to my child” when we see stories like these, but the truth is that a digital slip-up like a photo leak can happen to anyone.

Just a few years ago, advancements in video, photos and messaging technology all seemed so harmless. Now, sexting seems to be all the rage as teenagers experiment with these advances in technology. Disturbingly, sexting photo leaks appear to be becoming somewhat a trend among teens and, as sexting continues to be prevalent, the images are imprinted on technology forever.

Here are a few synopses of photo leaks that have happened in towns across the US. An especially disconcerting facet about these photo leaks is that each case has occurred in just the past six months:

  • In November, two students from McLean High School in Virginia acquired and organized folders containing compromising photos of 56 female classmates. They passed around the folders to other students in a carefully concealed Dropbox page. The 16 and 17-year-old teens plead guilty to three misdemeanor charges each for distributing obscene material.

  • A group of more than 30 teens from Rochester Hills, Michigan were caught receiving and distributing nude images of themselves and their friends. All of the people involved were under the age of 17. Charges for the photo distribution are pending.

  • Officials in Boone, Iowa recently opened up a huge investigation after discovering that photographs and videos of local high schoolers performing sexual acts were being shared among more than 100 people.

  • Three 15-year-old boys allegedly coerced 32 girls into sending them semi-nude photos on social media sites. A defense lawyer stated that the teens were not running a child-porn ring since they were receiving photos instead of photographing the images. It was revealed that 25 other involved boys were named in disclosure to lawyers, but only three teens are receiving charges.

Why are Photo Leaks Becoming Common?

The "trend' of photo leaks has most likely come about due to the growing availability of venues for sexting. The platform for sexting has only expanded in recent years. Kids and teens can send explicit photos and videos through Snapchat, texts, FaceTime and a plethora of messaging apps

Additionally, sexting through apps that use live video chatting or have images that disappear once viewed can simply be screenshot. An image or snapshot of a video can be acquired and saved easily. Many teens who have fallen victim to a photo leak had had images of themselves captured unexpectedly.

Photo leaks can occur even when one doesn't explicitly exchange content with another person. Images and videos can be compromised when a hacker breaches the iCloud, as was the case in the major celebrity photo hacking from September 2014. Criminals can also acquire inappropriate material by hacking usernames and passwords of unsuspecting victims.

The Damage is Irreparable

If unleashed onto the Internet, photos like these can become the property of some predator or pornographer very easily. Our children need to realize that involving themselves in leaked sexting photos is something that can never be taken back. You can’t just delete them after they have been passed around to every kid in school. 

These actions have the potential to ruin self-esteem and have lasting negative impacts on someone's life. Nude photo leaks can cause irreparable harm as they try to progress on to college and get jobs later in life.

Preventing a Photo Leak from Afflicting Your Child

  1. Parents should never overlook discussing the dangers of sexting with teens and tweens. Communicate with kids about the dangers of sexting before you hand them a mobile or Internet device.

  2. Share with teens stories like the ones above in which real people felt the repercussions of sexting and photo leaks. Seeing real-life instances like these might make a photo leak scandal seem more tangible.

  3. Protect your children by monitoring what they do and who they talk to. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Keeping tabs on your child's digital activities through a service like uKnowKids could save them from a world of harm.

Additionally, parents should teach tweens and teens about how to how react if they ever receive an inappropriate image or video. Inform them that circulating material like this is incriminating and leaves them susceptible to being charged by law enforcement. They should tell a parent or school official about the situation immediately.

It is a must to be in-the-know about what your inexperienced teens are doing online. One photo leak could cause irreparable harm. Prioritize protecting your teenagers from themselves and start early to shield them from this alarming trend.

                      Caught your child sexting? Set boundaries and keep tabs on their digital activities with a 30 day free uKnowKids trial.                
Steven Woda

Written by Steven Woda

Steve Woda is the co-founder and CEO of uKnow, and a leader in the Internet safety and security field for over 15 years. He frequently speaks on the topics of Internet and mobile security, ecommerce and information economics. You can follow Steve on Twitter or on his blog.

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