Cyber-bullying [, by Elizabeth Barrett, 4/11/2010]

Parents receive wake-up call about kids’ use of social media

Lincoln attorney speaks out about potential dangers of Internet, cell phones

A sexting incident involving a 16-year-old Sidney girl has led to the arrest of 36-year-old man.

News accounts say the teen sexted nude photographs of herself and engaged in sexually-based conversations with 36-year-old Kenneth Steffens.

The Sidney man was formally charged Friday with possession of child pornography.

“It’s here, it’s happening in Nebraska,” said Lincoln attorney Karen Haase.

Haase, who deals with social media issues regularly, spoke to middle- and high-school students on Oct. 20 in Gothenburg and to parents during a special presentation that evening.

The attorney, who works for Harding & Schultz, spoke about cyber-bullying, sexting and the hidden dangers of social media networks.

“Social networking is an important part of kids’ lives and parents need to be part of that,” Haase said, adding that parents who are not on Facebook need to join.

Facebook is a social network service and website on the Internet which allows people to communicate with each other.


She described sexting—a combination of sex and texting—as an act of sending sexually explicit messages or photos electronically, primarily between cell phones.

Although the sexting incident in Sidney happened after her presentation, Haase said in a phone interview Tuesday that it points to the fact that inappropriate use of cell phones and the Internet is on the increase.

In fact, national statistics reveal these percentages for who’s sending sexually suggestive photos:

39% of all teens

37% of girls

40% of boys

48% of teens say they have received sexting photos or messages

Haase shared an incident from Florida in which a girlfriend sent sexually suggestive photos to her boyfriend who forwarded the images to all of his contacts after he became angry with her.

The boy was convicted of distribution of child pornography and will remain on the sex offender registry until he’s 43 years old.

Cyber-bullying—or the use of technology such as a computer or cell phone to engage in deliberate, repeated and hostile behavior by an individual or group with intent to harm others—is also becoming widespread.

Haase shared an example of a conversation that took place through instant messaging.

Divagirl: “Hey loser, watch your back.”

tmt323: “What ru talking about?

Divagirl: “Why don’t you kill yourself while u r ahead?”

tmt323: “Why can’t you just leave me alone?”

Divagirl: “Ugly girls like u need to be put in their place.”

According to a 2008 report from the U.S. National Crime Prevention Council, 43% of teens are exposed to cyber-bullying in one form or another.

Yet, only one in 10 kids told their parents.

Haase said students and parents can be sued for cyber-bullying which if often covered by homeowners insurance.

The suit can be for intentional infliction of emotional distress, tortuous interference or for slander.

Haase started giving presentations about the dangers of social media through her work as a school attorney.

“Kids got into trouble and parents didn’t have a clue,” she said. “They don’t realize it’s an area where they need to parent their kids.”