Digital Parenting: Sexting Incidents Up Among Teens and Tweens

It seems juvenile that sexting incidents are making news headlines more and more often these days. Just recently, a teen Instagram "sexting ring" with an account containing more than 1,000 explicit photos of minors was discovered in Virginia; the next day, school officials at a Chicago-area middle school found sixth graders were trading explicit photos. Also this week comes news of an eighth-grade sexting ring in Barrington, Illinois.

According to a 2012 study completed by the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 28% of teens have sent a "sext" message. Experts predict that number will only go up as more and more teens own smartphones, which make photo taking, sharing, and accessing the internet easier and faster than ever.

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Digital Parenting: Fighting Back Against ‘Revenge Porn’

Just another reason to ensure that your teens aren't participating in sexting: exes posting revenge porn. This article was originally published on the Washington Post by Lindsey Bever.

Many of their stories start the same.

She Googles her own name. A Web site pops up, claiming to have nude photos or videos of her posted online for all to see. And, just out of curiosity, she clicks on it.

That’s when she realizes the ex she broke up with forever ago, uploaded the private pictures she once intended for only him. And there’s nothing she can do about it.

Often, her name, address and links to social media profiles are provided as well. And, in some cases, sites created for this reason will charge her a fee to remove it.

It happens to men, too.

This kind of cyber extortion or, at the very least, cyber humiliation, called “revenge porn” has grabbed the attention of lawmakers increasingly seeking to criminalize it.

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Colorado Anti-Cyberbullying Law Rejected by State Legislature

One of the vexing problems brought about by the Internet and social media is the phenomenon of cyberbullying. Unlike traditional bullying, cyberbullying does not involve actual physical confrontation. Indeed the cyberbully who posts harassing and threatening messages on Facebook and other social media is often not even identified. As a result, some victims of cyberbullying have been driven to suicide, so powerless do they feel to stop it. Many states have attempted or are currently attempting to invoke real change for cyberbullying victims by passing anti-cyberbullying laws.

Earlier today we published a blog post about a new anti-cyberbullying bill sweeping through Florida's legislature. A few months ago, a similar bill in Colorado received massive support and approval from the state's House of Representatives. However, the Colorado cyberbullying law was recently rejected by the Colorado Senate. 

The Colorado legislature was striving to equip the state’s law enforcement agencies with tools to combat cyberbullying. According to Channel 7 News in Denver, HB 14-1131, was a bill that would have specifically made cyberbullying a crime. Initially, the bill was successful, as it passed the Colorado House Education Committee unanimously and passed the state Senate in a 54-10 vote.

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How to Navigate Formspring, the Question-Asking Site

What is Formspring?

Formspring is a social network for asking and answering questions. Questions and responses range from funny to insightful to thought-provoking. It can help friends get to know each other in a new way, but it can also enable cyberbullying through its anonymous question feature.

How do you sign up?

People sign in with their Facebook account or register with an email and birth date. Formspring is open to users 13 and over, but any minor's account will be removed if requested by their parent.

Who can ask/answer questions?

Questions might be asked of only one person, a group of friends, or the entire Formspring community. People who ask questions can choose to include their identity or hide it. Both questions and responses can include photos, videos, and links.

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10 Ways to Protect Your Kids from Catfishing

Catfishing, or faking the identity of another person online in order to create a relationship, is not that hard for a teenager to fall for. Predators are adept at exploiting a teen or tween’s tendency to take people at their word. Ten rules for using the Internet can help them avoid falling victim to catfishing:

  1. No screen names that suggest your name or age (tyler14), gender (sk8r_gurrl), or are suggestive (longlegs in CA).

  2. Only friend people you know and have met in real life.

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3 Ways to Restore Self-Esteem & Sense of Privacy to Digital Teens

This article was originally published on McAfee Blog Central by Toni Birdsong.

While kids today are the beneficiaries of amazing technology, there are casualties to growing up digital we can’t deny. We know the hit that education, relationships, and even a child’s very health can take when we don’t help kids balance their tech. But what about the more subtle losses our kids are incurring that are harder to spot? What about the slow forfeit of precious things such as self-esteem, privacy, and a sense of personal safety? These are just a few of the many “losses” I’ve been noticing in my own teens as they live digital.

Often I file much of my kids’ peer fallouts online as teen “drama” but I’m realizing more and more, it’s not drama at all—it’s pain, real pain caused by real loss. It’s loss in the form of emotional staples that, ironically, most kids don’t even realize—or can’t pinpoint—that they have lost.

Think about it. The digital self-management required by teens today is absolutely mind-boggling. They aren’t just kids stumbling through adolescence toward adulthood, they’ve become virtual plate spinners. These plate spinners must: edit photos, respond promptly (either out of habit or pressure), out-post and out-funny others, inventory friend feeds, collect likes and followers, and calculate the social risk of various peer interactions. This list goes on and on . . . and on.

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When an Adult Engages in Cyberbullying Against a Child

Although it is alarming to learn about adults cyberbullying other adults, it is even more disturbing to hear about cases in which adults cyberbully kids. Earlier this month we posted an article about how a kindergarten girl was cyberbullied following a trip to Walmart. More details on the incident have since been released.

Cyberbullying most often manifests when children, especially teens, use smart phones, the Internet, and social media to torment another child. However, cyberbullying is not exclusively conducted by kids, targeting kids.

One of the first cases of an adult cyberbullying a child took place recently in Seneca, South Carolina. The incident began when an unnamed six year old girl, who appears to be on the heavy side and has some health issues related to her weight, had her picture taken and posted online as a joke. The man who took the picture posted it on his Facebook page with the caption “Honey Boo Boo at Walmart.” The cyberbully in question: Walhalla High School Assistant Principal Charlie Fowler. 

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Peer Jury Finds Teen Girls Engage in 'Vicious' Cyberbullying

Check out what one peer jury comminuty service administrator has to say about the differences between male and female cyberullying cases. This article was originally published on the Chicago Tribune by Karen Ann Cullotta.

While boys appear before the New Trier Township Peer Jury more than three times as much as girls, officials said recently that they are troubled by the severity of the cyberbullying crimes committed by teen girls.

Brian Leverenz, New Trier Township's community service administrator, said of the 35 teens who appeared before the township's peer jury in 2013, 27 were males and 8 were females.

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How to Stop Your Babysitter from Texting and Tweeting on the Job

This article was originally published on Common Sense Media by Sierra Filucci. 

It used to be that the worst thing a babysitter could do was raid the refrigerator. But this was before Facebook, texting, social media, and emojis. Today's sitters sneak -- or outright flaunt -- something many of us parents don't know how to deal with: constant texting, Instagramming, You-Tube-watching, you name it. So how do you dole out the rules?

Of course, the most important thing is that your kids are safe while they're under someone else's care. You might think the worst could never happen to your kids, but mobile devices just make getting distracted even easier, and that can have tragic consequences. Less severe than a major accident, but still disturbing, would be finding out your babysitter texted all night and ignored your kids.

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Building Better Digital Citizens

Co-Authored By HILARY SCHNEIDER, President of LifeLock, Inc. Originally published on the Huffington Post. 

Smart decision-making online is as important as looking both ways before crossing the street. The U.S. recognized its first official Safer Internet Day on February 11, led by ConnectSafely.org. With continued proliferation of the use of technology, the day marked an important time to celebrate and reflect on the role technology plays in our lives. It also stimulated discussion on the significance of encouraging safe, effective use of the Internet, social media and mobile devices, particularly among children and teens.

Research shows that among families with children age 8 and under, ownership of tablet devices has risen from 8 percent to 40 percent in just two years. Between 2011 and 2013, the amount of time children spent using mobile devices tripled. Additionally, 90 percent of teens report that they have used some form of social media and nearly 50 percent indicate that they have a smartphone.

At the same time, parents have expressed concern about how their children manage their online reputation. Nearly 70 percent of parents indicate that they are concerned about how their children's online activity might affect future academic or employment opportunities.

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Cyberbullying: Should the Buck Stop at School?

What is the appropriate course of action for schools and cyberbullying? There may not be a right answer, but here is one administrators opinion. This article was originally posted on BlogHer. 

If your child is getting cyberbullied, what can you do to help? Would you call on your child’s school to unravel the complicated drama that inevitably ensues with a bullying incident? Is school the best authority over these matters?

Bullying has become a wholly different thing than it was perhaps when you were bullied in your youth. Back in the day (meaning the pre-cell phone, pre-social media era) if your group of on-again-off-again friends decided you were off-again, they got together at lunch time and sat at a different table where there was no room for you. Or they told your boy-crush that you were crushing hard on him even though you swore them to secrecy. You suffered the day in school and maybe, if it happened to be on a Friday, your so-called friends had a sleepover without you and called you up to let you know that they were all at the ring leader’s house ... and you weren’t. Your angst, anger and hurt was extended all the way through a pint of ice cream, but not much past the weekend, as your friends remembered that your group science project was at your house and it was due on Monday. So they got over their funk, and you got over your hurt. Everyone remembered why you became friends in the first place as you finished your project together. And all was well again. (Did I just tell way too much about my middle school self? Well, perhaps, but you get the point ... )

This pain and misery lasted a day, maybe two. Nowadays, with the help of technology, bullying has taken on a whole new character that is meaner, wider spread and longer lasting. Kids are hijacking the social media of others and saying harmful things in their stead. They are posting derogatory and hurtful comments on Facebook and Formspring. They are spreading unauthorized photos and video far and wide on cell phones and the Internet.

And with an impact that is so much more profound, before parents can even help their children deal with the pain, alienation and the utter blow to their self-esteem, they just want to know how to

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Use Your Parental Intelligence to Parent Smarter, Not Harder

There comes a time in every parent's life, when he or she realizes they start sounding like an old person.  It's a sobering moment.  One when you hear yourself talking about "back in my day" or "when I was your age" and you begin the long and arduous path of beating a dead horse with tidbits of what made your generation better than your children's.

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Teens and Adults Agree: Education Diminishes Sexting Dangers

Check out this article by the University of Massachussettes Lowell about a recent study involving sexting and recommendations to avoid risky digital behavior. 

Research by Assoc. Prof Andrew Harris and Assoc. Prof. Judith Davidson provides concrete data and recommendations related to the use of technology in young adult romantic relationships. Dubbed “sexting” by media outlets, the term involves sharing suggestive photos or messages, mostly by phone. Their paper, “Building a Prevention Framework to Address Teen ‘Sexting’ Behaviors,” details results from their research and provides insights from teens, the group least often consulted about youth behavior and motivations.

“There have been other studies about ‘sexting’ and related behaviors, but they didn’t try to understand what the kids are feeling and how their values influence their actions,” says Harris, who is also the associate dean of Research and Graduate Programs for the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. “Much of the conversation has been based on limited data and knee-jerk reactions. We found that it is difficult to define ‘sexting’ behaviors and motivations in social context.”

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You Caught Your Kid Sexting, Now What?

This article was originally posted on the Huffington Post by Rachel Busman, PsyD.

I am getting asked more and more in my practice about how to talk to teens about situations that involve racy interchanges on Facebook, sending inappropriate pictures via text, and other Internet situations that spiral out of control. As the social media landscape continues to grow and change, these questions are coming up more and more and parents are looking for answers.

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21 Powerful Tips To Prevent Kids Cyberbullying

This article was originally posted on BlogHer and written by WomenLoveTech.

I get sick in the stomach when I read about teenagers taking their own lives after extensive online bullying. Nearly 80% of kids under 10 use social media. I urge you to take cyberbullying seriously. The Internet is a great place to learn, to be entertained, to share and communicate, but not a place for bullying.

Up to 35 percent of 8 to 11 year olds have their own mobile phone, rising to 94 per cent of 16 to 17 year olds. Children and young people are increasingly gaining access to the internet via their mobiles, yet only a very small percentage have discussed cybersafety with their parents.

I hope these 21 powerful tips to prevent kids cyberbullying will guide you and will help your kids. Please share this list with them.

1. Do not respond to any cyberbullying message, block the person and tell a trusted person.

2. When you are upset, walk away from your computer or your smartphone.

3. Do not write anything against another person, one day you will regret it but it will be too late.

4. Do not share with anyone (except parents) your passwords, your BFF is not an exception.

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Would Boycotting Certain Sites That Allow Cyberbullying Be Effective?

Cyberbullying continues to become the individual terrorism of the online world without any end in sight. With the U.K.'s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children recently citing some sobering statistics, you can also see how much of a worldwide problem cyberbullying has become. In the NSPCC figures, cyberbullies now target one out of every five children online.

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Teens Who Sext Are More Likely to Engage in Other Sexual Behaviors

Think your 7th grader isn't sexting? Might be time to think again.

A new study was published online today by the American Academy of Pediatrics about the sexting habits of at-risk seventh graders.

Here are some of the most shocking statistics:

  • 22 percent of at-risk seventh graders participated in sexting.

  • 17 percent sending texts only.

  • 5 percent sending texts and photos.

  • Higher perceptions of approval for sexual behavior from parents, peers and the media, higher intentions to engage in sexual behavior, lower emotional awareness, and lower emotional self-efficacy.

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Parental Intelligence: Understanding Text Bombing

In 2011, a fifteen-year-old girl was released from the hospital following a failed suicide attempt. However, when she got out of the hospital, the girls who had been bullying her by using a text bombing website to send her multiple text messages, picked up right where they left off.

Her second suicide attempt was successful.

An important part of parental intelligence is understanding what text bombing is, and how kids are using it to cyberbully and harass each other. With new apps being developed every day, it doesn't matter that the Google App store has banned two of the apps responsible for allowing kids to demonstrate this type of behavior - SMSBomber and SMSBarrage. 

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Cyberbullying: Teens Speak Out

The following article was originally posted on the Huffington Post by Dr. G. 

Is bullying getting worse? Studies show that more kids and parents are reporting bullying, but even more concerning is higher rates of kids surveyed anonymously say they don't report bullying. The most concerning trend is that kids involved in bullying are more likely than ever to commit suicide. Kids are, as a group, probably no meaner now than in generations past. So what is the problem?

Access.

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6 Internet Safety Rules for Parents of Teens and Tweens

It is no doubt that the internet has changed the world in ways most of us couldn’t have even seen coming. Young people today find themselves in a world where they are constantly online. Cell phones, Wi-Fi hotspots, and tablets have made being online 24/7 ‘the norm,” making responsible digital parenting more important than ever. According to research, thirty seven percent of Americans aged twelve to seventeen access the Internet on a smartphone and over half are accidentally exposed to inappropriate content. Because of these stats and the prevalence of the internet, it is more important than ever to lay ground rules for your connected kids. 

 During the course of digital parenting, it’s hard for children to understand you’re only concerned for their wellbeing. Most advice you offer seems like it’s completely ignored or seen as a challenge. There are ways to set rules with your children so they understand your concern and don’t see it as an attack. Remember that your own teenage years likely saw you become stubborn as you tried to learn how to make your own choices. Technology may connected kids, but it doesn’t change what being a kid is. While the experience of growing up may be the same, the connected world your kids find themselves in creates new challenges that require hard rules. Here are 6 Internet safety rules for parents of teens and tweens to enforce:

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