Cumbria teens warned of ‘sexting’ dangers [ North West Evening Mail, 05/08/2013]

TEENAGERS are being warned of the dangers of ‘sexting’ as part of a Cumbria police campaign.

Sexting’ is when someone takes an indecent photo of themselves and sends it to a partner or friend – via mobile phone or some other form of technology.

The campaign runs throughout the summer holidays and is aimed at educating parents and carers as well as highlighting some of the perils of online communication.

Detective Inspector Stephanie Brown, of the Public Protection Unit at Cumbria Constabulary, said: “Many young people see sexting as a bit of fun, that’s just between themselves and their partner.

“But the truth is once you have sent an image to others you have lost control of it and it can end up anywhere.

“These images could be then used to bully, harass or even locate the person who sent the image.

“My advice is if you wouldn’t like your parents or teachers to see an image – don’t send it.

“If anyone receives an indecent image or text do not send it on and report it to a responsible adult. Technically possessing an indecent image of another minor is a criminal offence and you could be breaking the law.”

Police and Crime Commissioner, Richard Rhodes said: “I welcome the Constabulary’s campaign especially aimed at keeping young people safe online.

Sexting is not fun and can have significant consequences. It is really important that people use modern technology responsibly.”

Helen Smith, from Children’s Services at Cumbria County Council, said: “I would encourage all teenagers in Cumbria to follow Cumbria Police on Facebook and Twitter for the next two weeks for advice on the dangers of sexting.

“The risk of exposing intimate images of yourself for the world to see is too great a price to pay for a moment’s lapse in judgement.

“If you are concerned about an image you may have sent always tell an adult you trust – which could be your mum, dad, teacher, or a family friend.”

Visit www.cumbria.police.uk/advice-and-information/online-safety for more information.

Parental talks about sexting should start young: experts [ New York Daily News, by Tacy Miller, 02/08/2013 ]

Experts agreed parental talks about sexting should start young, even before middle school.
Experts agreed parental talks about sexting should start young, even before middle school.

Just how early should you talk to your kids about the dangers of sexting?

As soon as you hand them a phone, experts say.

While there are no clear figures on the number of young teens and preteens who have swapped sexually explicit photos with cell phones and other technology, there’s no doubt that it happens.

In Pittsburgh last month, police were alerted to an 11-year-old girl who had been sending topless photos of herself to an older adult.

Months earlier in San Bernardino County, Calif., a 14-year-old girl was issued a misdemeanor citation for transmitting sexual photos on her cell phone.

These cases may be rare, but it often takes only one troubled child to start a dangerous trend among peers, said Dr. Susan Lipkins, a psychologist who specializes in school conflict.

“They’re acting out, needing attention, and there may be some reason,” Lipkins said. “There may be something in the child’s life where they have already been exposed to sex, either by seeing things or hearing things they shouldn’t, or perhaps being abused.

“One child who acts out will be the one with the problem, and the others who are watching may follow.”

Dr. Rebecca Bailey, a family psychologist, agrees.

“There’s a lot of double-daring going on,” said Bailey, author of “Safe Kids, Smart Parents: What Parents Need to Know to Keep Their Children Safe.” “I knew a boy [around 11 years old] who did it to make the other kids stop thinking he was nerdy – that’s a fit-in thing.”

RELATED: TEENS WHO ‘SEXT’ ARE CLUELESS ABOUT RISK

That kids not yet in their teens would send sexually inappropriate text messages is no surprise, she added.

“With kids getting periods as young as 9 now, there may be some that are a little more aware of sexuality,” she says. “They’re also practicing intimacy on some level, too. Some of these kids are ‘going out’ with each other at 11, whatever that may mean. What we’re talking about is wanting to fit in, maybe being somewhat impulsive, and figuring out their identity.”

But even younger children who aren’t thinking about sex are aware what they’re doing is inappropriate, Lipkins said.

“I think people are apt to think ‘oh they didn’t know what they were doing is wrong,'” she said. “They knew; they just couldn’t predict the consequences.”

Experts agreed parental talks about sexting should start young, even before middle school.

RELATED: TEEN SEXTING SCARE? IT TURNS OUT, FEW ACTUALLY DO IT

Exactly what you say to your children depends on their age – and not necessarily the one that’s displayed on their birthday cake.

Parents need to “understand developmentally what age your child is at,” Bailey said. “Some 11-year-olds are still 9-year-olds. That can vary in a house. You can have twins with different developmental ages.”

Here’s how to start the conversation with your younger child.

Start with the basics. Elementary schoolers can be taught phone safety rules that will help prepare them for peer pressure later on. “Even a younger child can understand, don’t take pictures of anything that’s private, don’t expose your last name or any identifying info,” Lipkins said.

Give them a “dumb” phone, not a smartphone. “The phone you give your child should only have features that child is ready to handle,” Lipkins said. If a child can’t exercise good judgment with photos or texting, parents can and should disable those functions. Most elementary-aged kids only need a basic phone with mom and dad’s number programmed on it, Bailey said.

Have access to the phone – and use it. “Parents should be able to see texts and photos, and have the passwords” to any apps, Lipkins said. Privacy “can happen later during high school,” she added. “In middle school, kids still need supervision.”

Ask questions instead of lecturing. “Be a bit of a detective” to find out what’s really going on in your child’s life, Bailey said. “Allow them to teach you,” she said. “Use examples about other kids that you know. Often that will give you more information than hitting them head on.”

Don’t stop at one conversation. “It’s never a one-stop shop” for this kind of parental guidance, Lipkins said. Set down ground rules before you give them the phone, then check in periodically.