Live Blog Tackles Cyberbullying [Department of Education & Training, 10/2/2015]

As part of Safer Internet Day, Bully Stoppers expert and clinical psychologist Andrew Fuller answered questions from Victorian school students and parents on an online blog on the Herald Sun’s website.

Over two hours Mr Fuller took questions from dozens of young people and adults about cyberbullying and staying safe online, including tips for parents about how to respond if their child is being cyberbullied.

Some of Mr Fuller’s advice for students included:

Q: If we see online bullying what tips could you give us to help?

A: Generally it is best not to respond. Instead talk to an adult, save and store the content. You could block or delete the bully from your contact list. Use the report abuse button on social network sites and talk about this in class and get ideas about appropriate use of social media as a group. The Bully Stoppers website has heaps of tips.

Q: How can we make our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles safer?

A: Check the privacy settings for all of your social media sites – makes sure people can’t track your location, school and determine who should be able to view your postings. Look at the help centre on facebook.com.

Q: Sometimes when I’m playing a multiplayer game, some people I’m playing with gang up on me and swear at me. How can I not let it affect me? I don’t want to talk to mum, because she might stop me from using the internet.

A: Players say all sorts of things to one another on a multiplayer game that they don’t mean. Try not to take it personally but you find it is affecting you, you might have to either change the game you play or the group you play with. Mr Fuller also had advice for concerned parents.

Q: I’ve tried to tell my children when this kind of thing (cyberbullying) happens to just take a two day break from social media, because it won’t be the end of the world. But they seem to take this like I’m punishing them for them being bullied. Is this the wrong message? What should I tell them to do instead?

A: Generally parents shouldn’t threaten or ban use of technology as it often makes them reluctant to seek help in the future. It is usually better to use this as an opportunity to work through hurt feelings and develop strategies for the future. It’s useful to help children learn not to respond to abusive messages. The number one rule for dealing with cyberbullying is don’t respond, don’t interact and don’t engage.

Q: I suspect my son may be being cyber bullied – because when he comes out of the computer room for dinner he seems quite down and bit depressed. How should i approach this subject with him without making it look like I’m prying into his personal life?

A: This is always tricky to judge. People can appear a bit flat and exhausted after playing computer games for a time. The best first thing to do is to share your observations with him and ask if he is ok. Do this each time he appears flat or depressed. If you don’t feel convinced about the answers you get, you might want to check how he seems at school by asking the school welfare staff.

Q: My eight year old daughter is asking to have an Instagram account because all her friends have one. I think that she is too young. What do I need to put in place to keep her safe from online predators?

A: I agree with you – too young! Many social networking sites have age restrictions. You don’t pick and choose which laws you obey in the real world so you shouldn’t do it online.

The Bully Stoppers website is full of information and advice for students, parents and schools on cyberbullying and cybersafety – including advice from Mr Fuller. The full transcript of Mr Fuller’s live blog will be available on the Bully Stoppers website shortly.

Here’s why schools should put sexting on the curriculum [The Telegraph, by Allison Pearson, 11/2/2015]

After Christmas, I was using up some leftovers while the Daughter and her friends sat round the kitchen table having one of their marathon toast-fests and sharing stories of their new lives at uni. Sophie said that, at a party, a guy had walked up to her and said: “Hello, gorgeous, I’ve got a huge —. Fancy a —-?”

The other girls fell about, but the laughter sounded obligatory rather than joyful. “You don’t have to put up with that, Sophie, darling,” I found myself saying. “It’s so disrespectful. I hope you told him where to go?”

“Relax, mum,” said my daughter. She wore that stricken, pleading look which means “Oh, God, she’s not going to go off on one of her ‘Suffragettes didn’t go on hunger strike so you could post a picture of your boobs on Snapchat’ lectures, is she?”

The girls started talking about a mutual friend, only 17. Olivia’s charismatic boyfriend was a nightmare, both aggressive and controlling. Olivia kept trying to break free, but each time X reeled her back in. “I think Liv’s scared of him, but she doesn’t want to be by herself,” said Samira. The girls murmured in sympathy. For them, there was only one thing more horrifying than an abusive relationship: being single.

Later, after they’d gone, I told my daughter I was worried about Sophie. Had she really had sex with that tosser who came up to her at a party? “You just don’t get it, mum,” sighed the Daughter. “Sophie’s not really that kind of girl. It’s just if you don’t have sex, you’re a loser. Everyone does it ’cos boys expect you to. Every girl I know’s had some bad experience where it’s got kind of abusive.”

“Even you?’ I said.

“Even me,” she said.

If I was shocked to hear that conversation between lovely, bright young women, I shouldn’t have been. A new study into adolescent relationships has found that hundreds of thousands of teenage girls, some as young as 13, have been coerced into sex or sexual activity by a boyfriend. England came out far worse than other European countries, with two in five girls aged between 13 and 17 suffering sexual coercion of some sort, including rape.

’Twas ever thus, some will shrug. Boy tries to get into Girl’s knickers is as old as heavy petting in the Garden of Eden. The difference now, as pointed out by the University of Bristol’s School for Policy Studies, is the scale of coercion and the number of teenage girls sending and receiving sexual images and texts.

Almost half of 13- to 17-year-olds have “sexted”. Researchers were surprised to discover that many girls said exchanging of explicit images with boys was a “highly positive experience”, adding to the fun of flirting. However, almost all the girls said that the experience turned negative if the boy shared the image with friends, making them feel humiliated.

It made me think of two shamefaced teenage girls I saw on TV the other night. They confessed that they became different characters on social media. You could be a bully, you could be lewd and crude, you could be whoever you wanted to be.

“In space, no one can hear you scream” goes the great line from Alien. Kids seem to believe the same applies to social media. They are seriously mistaken. Teenage courtship rituals, essentially unchanged for decades, have been discarded as our children are handed explosive new toys, which even fully-grown Members of Parliament are too immature to handle.

Boys are literally getting the message that girls are permanently up for it when the truth is girls may just feel under huge social pressure to display their wares without necessarily being ready to hand over the goods. And all this happens without any meaningful human contact.

What a pity the Bristol study didn’t include the experience of boys. “You’d be amazed what girls will do, mum,” my 15-year-old son said to me recently. I feel so sorry for him and his generation. Social media is a lawless Wild West without a sheriff. There is no map to help hormonal youngsters navigate a safe path. If boys end up with a warped view of female sexuality, it’s hardly surprising: if all girls feel obliged to flash their tits to attract a mate, it’s not the sexual freedom their grandmothers wished for. It’s just a more open prison.

Such is the confusion out there they have actually invented something called a “consensual-sex app”, which kids can use to ask their partner’s permission to have sex. Good2Go “allows the sex-initiator to forego outdated modes of courting, like foreplay, or talking to your partner”. Instead, they can hand you their phone and get you to answer a series of questions, including whether you are “Sober”, “Mildly Intoxicated but Good2Go” or “Pretty Wasted”. If you’re Pretty Wasted, the phone will instruct you not to have sex.

Who says romance is dead, St Valentine? Imagine what the Bard would have made of this new intimacy: “Let us not to the marriage of two true sex initiators admit impediment. Love is not love which makes a move when Sex Initiator 1 is pretty wasted.”

Schools should urgently put a new subject on the curriculum: Sex, Self-Respect and Social Media. Young people need to be taught that the same standards apply to your character in the real and the online world.

Finally, to girls and boys aged 13 to 17, a word of advice from your Auntie Allison. Before you press Send, ask yourself one small question: “Would I like my mum and dad to see this photo of me?”

No sexts please, we’re British.

Cyber bullying finds new platform [The Daily News, by David Vitrano, 04/2/2015]

Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal cautions parents about a new social media tool that has emerged in Washington Parish and is being used as a mechanism for bullying.

Yik Yak was launched in 2013 and works by combining the technologies of GPS and instant messages. Very simply, it is an anonymous bulletin board on which users can post comments to be read by anyone within a limited geographical area.

On its website, Yik Yak describes itself as “…an anonymous messaging app that allows users to create and view posts — called Yaks — within a 10-mile radius. Users can also expand the conversation by posting replies to existing Yaks.”

The misuse of Yik Yak to bully two students has already been reported in Washington Parish. The Sheriff’s Office has been notified and the WPSO Cyber Crimes Investigator is handling the complaints.

In early December, two University of Central Oklahoma students were arrested for posting Yik Yak threats to shoot up the university. Students from Drake University in Iowa were arrested in September for similar threats. Other incidents have occurred at the University of Southern Mississippi, Penn State University, the University of Georgia and other schools, which resulted in the arrests of students making the threats. In January, a 16-year old high school student in Oxford, Ala., was arrested and charged with making a terroristic threat on Yik Yak.

“Since I took office, we have developed a mechanism for investigating crimes involving all social media, including the Internet,” Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal said. “Our Cyber Crimes Investigator has been certified in Mobile Forensics, Computer Forensics and Cyber Investigations. He provides a valuable service to parents, local schools and law enforcement throughout the parish.”

Seal said parents should know what their children are doing on computers.

“I strongly encourage parents to closely monitor their children’s use of all social media,” Seal added. “While social media itself is not bad, the misuse of social media as a tool to threaten, bully or disseminate false information can be a criminal act. We will aggressively go after anyone making social media threats to any individual, group, school or school function.”

Seal said any parent, teacher or other person who knows of cyber bullying or threats on any form of social media is asked to report the matter to the Sheriff’s Office at 985-839-3434.

Cyberbully: it’s becoming a bigger problem than ever, so what can be done about online bullying?[The Independent, by Anastasia de Waal, 16/1/2015].

How many calls do you get about the issue of cyberbullying?

BullyingUK saw calls relating to cyberbullying increase by 77% over a 12 month period.  Cyberbullying can and does have a seismic effect on the families concerned. In an online survey, BullyingUK also found that 43.5% of respondents aged between 11 and 16 had been bullied via social networks.  51% felt that blocking the bully from further contact or communication was a vital tool.

How big a problem is online bullying?

We believe that some children are being relentlessly bullied with no respite as online social media channels permeate the home and the school environment. But the act of bullying itself is the problem. Whilst recent efforts have focused on the pernicious effects of open and anonymous ‘cyberbullying’; confrontational and physical bullying remains an issue. A national BullyingUK survey (1761 respondents) found:

·  93% of pupils reported that bullying occurred at school primarily during break, in classrooms and the playground

·  81.4% of young people were bullied by more than one person. 62% of the children confided in their parents

·  95% of parent respondents told BullyingUK that bullying took place in school, with 83.2% identified as name calling, 66% as physical bullying and 68.1% social bullying

Has the law changed to deal with the issue?

There is no legal definition of cyberbullying within UK law. However there are a number of existing laws that can be applied to cases of cyberbullying and online harassment, namely the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, Malicious Communications Act 1988, Communications Act 2003, Breach of the Peace (Scotland), Defamation Act 2013. Guidelines issued by the Crown Prosecution Service in Dec 2012 explain how cases of cyberbullying will be assessed under the current legislation. Download the ‘CPS Guidelines’ here.The Defamation Act 2013 came into force on 1st January 2014. To read the act and for more information click here.

Should anonymous sites where young people can comment on each other be banned?

For every site that is banned another one will pop up a few days later. Therefore parents, professionals and children need to equip themselves with the resilience to recognize the signs of cyberbullying.

Since early 2013, BullyingUK has been contacted by people express their concern about sites such as Ask.fm which allegedly let any viewer see the names, photographs and details of children as young as 13, then post comments or questions on their profile pages – this has reportedly ranged from insults to perverted sexual advances and threats of violence. This week Ask.fm announced its first safety advisory board to make the site a “safer and more positive place” for users.

That any website enables young and impressionable children and adults to anonymously post damaging and derogatory comments towards young children and adults and needs to be addressed.

What would you advise parents to do?

Technology has become part of the tapestry of family life and plays an increasingly prevalent role in day to day, family activity. However, it is not something that parents  – or their children – are at the mercy of – all too often we forget that the online world is a controllable experience.

The same common sense needs to be applied to internet usage as to any other area of parenting. It’s about critical thinking and making smart choices for a healthy balance between digital life and real life. An obvious, but very common, scenario is “my child is glued to their mobile phone from the moment they come home from school to the moment they fall asleep that night”.

First things first: set boundaries early on, particularly around screen time, and instil from the start a rule that devices are left downstairs at bed time. The second thing is to lead by example: the same rules apply for the adults as for the kids. If a parent is continually engrossed on their iPad, or checks work emails during family time, then it makes that behaviour appropriate, and it’s hardly surprising children do the same.

The key is to not wait for conflict, but put boundaries in place to stand you in good stead to deal with issues as and when they arise.  Parents have always worried about their children’s use of existing and emerging technologies.  We encourage parents to have conversations with their children as the consequences of accessing inappropriate and violent sites can be extremely damaging and can distort perceptions about real life and relationships.

Should children be allowed their own laptap?

We advise keeping PCs, laptops and tablets in a room used by all the family.  Parents must monitor how much time their child/ren spend online and encourage them to openly talk about what they’re looking at.  Young people are more likely to seek help and advice from parents who listen and are supportive, rather than those who lecture or fly off the handle.

Parents should be talking to their children at a young age and stressing the importance of a password, and how they should NEVER share their passwords out with friends or strangers. Parents should create their children’s online accounts themselves and not let the child do it.  That way they will also have access to passwords. Of course parents can’t monitor other occasions where their child may set up an account hence why the importance of not sharing passwords must be re-iterated.

If you have purchased your child a laptop make sure you set the laptop up with you as the ‘Administrator’ and create your child’s account without these rights.  This is a safety precaution as it also prevents your child from installing in malware or by mistake clicking on something they should not have which could then install malicious software onto their laptop.  It is through software like this that criminals are able to take control of web cams on machines.

Microsoft also has very easy to use ‘Parental Controls. Windows 8 for example lets you create an account as a ‘child’s account’ and then the wizard walks you through step by step the various parental control options.  When your child begins to use their laptop logged in with their ‘child’ account they get a little pop saying their account is being monitored via parental controls. You as the parent will receive a weekly report emailed to you on what your child has been doing. Some of the report covers items such as the number of hours they have used certain applications, the most used ‘search terms’ typed in and any potentially unsafe sites visited.

What about their phone?

Mobile phones and tablets come with very useful ‘Restrictions’ area on their operating system. You as the parent can enable this via a 4 digit pin. Your child then cannot access this section without your pin.  You can access this area in setting/restrictions and manage your child’s access to the internet browser and the app store. You can switch off ‘in app purchases’ and even select the age level of apps and movies and music they can access. You can also prevent face-time from being used.  This is a very useful area to set up and only takes minutes.

What should schools do?

Whilst not being limitless in their capacity of course, schools need to be alive to the reality that bullying today goes well beyond the boundaries of the playground. Just as with any form of bullying schools should be alert to the signs and work to foster collaboration between teachers, parents and pupils in tackling the issue. For more information visit here.

What advice would you give to young people about their online identity?

Just as we teach children how to cross the road and how to swim, online activity and social media interaction should be initially supervised. Adults may feel they are behind the technological curve, but parents and other family members may wish to familiarise themselves with how the ever evolving computer and mobile technology works. For example, spending time with children looking at functions, exploring how to block unwanted emails and the GPS facility.

If a child seems distressed after a phone call or time spent on the internet, try and find out the reasons for this.  Vulnerable children can become so consumed by negative online comments towards them, it is crucial that a sense of perspective and proportion is injected by a role model to avoid issues spiralling out of control.

Anastasia de Waal is Chair of BullyingUK

Images of NI schoolgirls on pornographic website. [RTE.IE/News, 11/11/2014].

The police force said the images are not indecent, but they were on an pornographic website.

The BBC reported that 731 photographs of Northern Irish schoolgirls appeared on a website used by paedophiles.

It said the schoolgirls included pupils from 19 secondary schools in Northern Ireland.

The BBC said the photographs were taken or uploaded to social media by the girls themselves and then taken from those accounts without their consent.

PSNI Detective Chief Superintendent George Clarke said police were made aware of the images on 10 October.

He said: “Following consultation with the PPS, which has confirmed that the images do not appear to meet the criminal threshold for indecency, we have agreed with them to continue to investigate the matter to ascertain if any other criminal offence can be identified.”
Chief Supt Clarke said the website is based in the Netherlands and is therefore outside of the PSNI’s jurisdiction.

He said: “International Letters of Request have to be prepared in order to secure the information by way of assistance from the Dutch Authorities.

“Since there is no criminal offence yet identified that meets the threshold for the ILOR, this information is not compulsory for the website to provide.”

Chief Supt Clarke said the PSNI made contact with the website in question.

He said it removed the images, but it would not say who had uploaded them to the site.

“It is important to note that the website is under no legal obligation to provide this information or remove the photographs. The images have been removed,” he said.

“We have made contact with six schools and provided internet security advice and reassurance where needed.

“The fact that no crime has yet been identified was also highlighted.”

Irish Govt forms new internet safety group to protect children. [ Silicon Republic, by John Kennedy, 29/11/2013 ].

The Advisory Group, which will be chaired by Dr Brian O’Neill of the Dublin Institute of Technology, will have regard to international best practice, including recent European Commission Reports and Council Conclusions in this area, and will also be asked to comment specifically on the recent report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee titled ‘Addressing the Growth of Social Media and tackling Cyberbullying’.

Other members of the group include cyber psychologist Mary Aiken, director of the UCD Centre for Cyber Security Professor Joe Carthy, CEO of the National Parents Council Aine Lynch, UPC’s head of regulatory and public policy Kate O’Sullivan and telecoms law barrister Ronan Lupton.

The Group will be asked to produce specific recommendations on the appropriateness of existing regulatory and legislative frameworks around electronic communications, internet governance and the sharing of material online and as to the most appropriate relationship should be between ISPs, online service providers, the State and citizens in relation to access to legal material and bullying and harassment online.

“Fundamental to their work is the question of striking an appropriate balance in policy terms that ensures the protection of children and young people but does not limit their opportunities and rights online,” Minister Rabbitte said.

Dad of tragic Ciara bullied online warns other parents [ Irish Independent, by Greg Harkin, 2/10/2012 ]

pugsley456

THE father of a beautiful teenage schoolgirl who took her own life after being bullied online today warns other parents of the dangers of social media.

 

Ciara Pugsley (15) who committed suicide 12 days ago. Her father Jonathan has spoken out about how she suffered online bullying and he wants to bring the dangers of social networking sites to light
Ciara Pugsley (15) who committed suicide 12 days ago. Her father Jonathan has spoken out about how she suffered online bullying and he wants to bring the dangers of social networking sites to light

Ciara Pugsley (15), who successfully represented her local GAA team, took her own life 12 days ago in a tragedy of appalling proportions.

Detectives are investigating claims she was bullied on the ask.fm website.

Her dad Jonathan spoke to this newspaper in order to alert other parents of the dangers to their children online.

“I’m reminded of Ciara every single minute of the day, I’m always doing something that reminds me of her,” said the 46-year-old engineer.

“Ciara was a special girl. She was outgoing and involved in so many clubs. She loved horse-riding, GAA and everything else that was going on.

“She wasn’t the girl who sat in the corner and was quiet. She was at the centre of everything and that’s why the local community in Leitrim is so upset because so many people knew her,” said Mr Pugsley.

Ciara Pugsley (15), who successfully represented her local GAA team, took her own life 12 days ago in a tragedy of appalling proportions.

Detectives are investigating claims she was bullied on the ask.fm website.

Her dad Jonathan spoke to this newspaper in order to alert other parents of the dangers to their children online.

“I’m reminded of Ciara every single minute of the day, I’m always doing something that reminds me of her,” said the 46-year-old engineer.

“Ciara was a special girl. She was outgoing and involved in so many clubs. She loved horse-riding, GAA and everything else that was going on.

“She wasn’t the girl who sat in the corner and was quiet. She was at the centre of everything and that’s why the local community in Leitrim is so upset because so many people knew her,” said Mr Pugsley.

Ciara's fatherJonathan Pugsleyat the HerbertPark hotel inBallsbridge,Dublin last night
Ciara’s father, Jonathan Pugsley, at the Herbert Park hotel in Ballsbridge,Dublin last night

 

Mr Pugsley, from Somerset, moved with his Irish-born wife Aggie and their three children to Dromahair, Co Leitrim, 12 years ago. “My wife is Irish and wanted to come home and Leitrim was perfect. The country living and the country schools and all the activities — you couldn’t have asked for a better place.

She was a popular student at St Clare’s Comprehensive and had represented Leitrim Ladies

Gaelic football team at under-14 level, reaching the junior all-Ireland final last year.

“I had no idea until 12 days ago that Ciara was being bullied. There were no signs of it,” said Mr Pugsley.

“Of course when I was at school we didn’t have the internet and any arguments there were settled there. But nowadays it continues online and on into the evening and right through until 2 o’clock at night.

“I have heard of Bebo and Facebook like every other parent but I had never heard of this site ask.fm, where bullies can be completely anonymous,” he said.

Mr Pugsley described the site — based in Latvia — as “extremely sinister”. He said he didn’t expect to be able to campaign for its closure because “another would just pop up anyway”.

 

Ciara Pugsley
Ciara Pugsley

“If I can, I want to help educate people about what these sites are and what they can do to young people.”

The grieving father said he had been taken aback by some of the comments he had read about his daughter online before and after her death.

“It is very scary,” he said, “and very sinister and you wonder about these people (making comments). But if I can help to educate people about being safe online then I will.”

Last night he appeared on RTE’s ‘Frontline’ TV programme to help that process.

He said his other daughter Abigail (20) and son Daniel (18) were “utterly devastated” by Ciara’s death.

“Daniel has taken it badly because he had just started to take Ciara out to underage discos and introduce her to his friends,” said Jonathan. “He was particularly close to her.”

Meanwhile, the rate of male suicide has dropped slightly but it remains relatively constant for women, a new report revealed yesterday.

Prevention

However, suicide is still significantly more likely among males than females, the report of the HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention said.

Male suicide steadily increased from 8.4 per 100,000 in 1980, to 23.5 in 1998, falling to 20.0 in 2009.

The suicide rate is highest for young males aged between 20 and 24 and for females aged between 50 and 54.

There were 552 deaths by suicide in 2009, representing a rate of 12.4 deaths per 100,000 population.

Compared to other European standards, Ireland has the sixth lowest rate of death by suicide, with a reported rate of 10.3 per 100,000, compared with the lowest rate of 3.9 in Greece and the highest of 34 in Lithuania.

Teachers worried as girls go top of the class for cyber-bullying [ The Independent, by Richard Garner, 18/4/2011]

Teachers will today call for an investigation into rising levels of poor behaviour among girls in the classroom.

The girls, they argue, are more likely to resort to cyber-bullying – the form of bullying utilising the internet and mobile phones that is worrying school leaders.

A survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) reveals that half the teachers believed girls’ behaviour had got worse during the past two years. One in five thought it was now more challenging than boys.

Teachers interviewed for the survey accused girls of being “sneakier” than boys in the way they misbehaved.

They were also more adept at using modern social media such as Facebook to bully their fellow pupils.

The survey of 859 teachers in both primary and secondary schools and further education colleges said girls’ misbehaviour centred around isolating fellow pupils from a friendship group, spreading rumours and making snide comments.

“Girls spread rumours and fallouts last a long time,” a 34-year-old teacher from Reading told researchers. “Boys tend to sort it out fairly quickly.”

Another teacher drew attention to a rise in the use of social media to bully pupils. “There is a lot of cyber bullying particularly via MSN and Facebook – this is mainly girls,” said the teacher, who is a member of the senior management team of an English secondary school.

The finding follows a one-day strike by teachers at a high school in Lancashire – Darwen High School – earlier this month over pupil behaviour.

Teachers complained that pupils were making videos and taking photographs in class with their smartphones and then posting them on websites such as YouTube.

The teachers were particularly unhappy that senior management did not back them up when they confiscated pupils’ phones.

Today’s motion at the ATL conference calls for more support for teachers in instilling discipline.

One teacher from Weston-super-Mare told researchers that girls were also becoming more violent. “Girls are definitely getting more violent with gangs of girls in school who are getting worse than gangs of boys,”she said.

However, a primary school teacher from Bedfordshire added: “Boys are generally more physical and their behaviour is more noticeable.

“Girls are often sneakier about misbehaving, they often say nasty things which end up disrupting the lesson just as much as the boys as other children get upset and can’t focus on their work.”

The teacher added. “They [the girls] are usually the ones who refuse to comply with instructions.”

The feeling was, though – despite rising levels of aggressive behaviour among girls – that boys were still more likely to show physical aggression. “Staff get ground down daily by the chatting and messing around, which disrupts lessons for other pupils and takes the pleasure out of teaching,” said Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL.

“Even more worrying is the physical aggression – most often among boys but also among some girls – which puts other pupils and staff at risk.”

The union’s annual conference in Liverpool will today hear calls to carry out an investigation into the number of girls being excluded from school. Delegates will be told it is an increasing problem.

Sexting: How to Talk to Your Kids [ wentzvillepatch.com, by Joe Smith, 15/4/2011]

I was late to the digital revolution. I resisted as long as I could. But as the famous movie quote goes, “Resistance is futile.”

As soon as I started Facebook, my eyes were opened to the wonders of social media. And don’t get me started on Twitter–I LOVE Twitter! I’m able to connect with so many people from all over the globe. The amount of information at my fingertips is staggering. The chance to reconnect with old high school friends has been fantastic. I really do love all this technology and how it’s increased my ability to connect and communicate with people.

But like anything, there are those who push the line and the envelope. With this influx of technology, there are dangers lurking for us and our kids. This week, we’ll look at sexting.”

What is sexting?

Sexting is a new reality in youth culture. It occurs when a person takes a sexually revealing photo of themselves and send it to other people. It can also involve sending sexually explicit texts to others.

This is a problem that is more prevalent than you might think. According to surveys done by CosmoGirl and The National Campaign to Prevent Teen an Unplanned Pregnancy, 2009:

  • Twenty-two percent of teen girls and 20 percent of teen boys have sent nude or partially phones of themselves over the Internet on their phones.
  • Twenty-two percent of teens admit that technology makes them more forward and aggressive.
  • Thirty-eight percent of teens say exchanging sexy content makes dating or hooking up with others more likely.
  • Twenty-nine percent of teens believe those exchanging sexy content are “expected” to date or hook up.

And according to information from MTV and The Associated Press, 30 percent of teens sext.

Not only do 20 to 30 percent of teens sext, but it can become life or death when that picture starts to circulate around the school and community. AMW’s Safety Center website tells the story of Ohio teen Jessica Logan. One snap of a camera phone changed her life forever: that one image—meant only for her boyfriend at the time—would have deadly ramifications. Jessica’s parents said she took her own life in her bedroom after the racy photo was leaked around her school, and she had been harassed for months.

In the March 30, 2009 issue of People magazine the article “The Dangers of Sexting” tells of two young boys who shared a sext photo and wound up in trouble with the law. Fortunately for these two students, no charges were filed. But because of child pornography laws, anyone that takes and sends a nude photo of a minor can be charged.

In 2009, a CBS news report on the dangers of sexting said that anyone (minors included) possessing nude pictures of underage kids is violating the letter of the law. They can be charged with felonies and must register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.

Eric Higgs, a deputy sheriff in Effingham County, IL said that in his county and surrounding counties 40 percent of teens with cellphones have received at least one sexually explicit photo from another teen.

I have personally dealt with the devastation and fallout that comes from sexting. It’s not easy sitting with parents and talking about images that their little girls have sent out to boys. It’s not easy counseling these young women that for one reason or another sent these pictures to one person, and “somehow” they ended up all over the school.

Imagine the shame you would feel, if you knew that most of the people you see on a daily basis had seen intimate pictures of you. The embarrassment would be almost too much to take. These feelings can fade with time, but the harassment that takes place can affect a person long after the picture is forgotten. It manifests itself in a low self image. Some of the teen girls have sought out the comfort of another teen boy who will tell them they love them, only to find out the only thing that boy loved was the physical encounter that came from the comforting words. Then the cycle repeats itself.

In my decade of working with teens and their families, this is not an extreme but the norm. Sex, in any form, is powerful. The teen psyche is not equipped to handle the fallout and responsibility that comes from sexting.

Thankfully there has been push back from networks with large teen audiences, such as MTV, using their large platforms to warn teens about the dangers of sexting. Hopefully this will help. But the first line of defense takes place in the home. We must be aware of the problem and then have solutions to the problem.

Here are some tips from Commonsense.org:

  • Don’t wait for an incident to happen to your child or your child’s friend before you talk about the consequences of sexting. Sure, talking about sex or dating with teens can be uncomfortable, but it’s better to have the talk before something happens.
  • Remind your kids that once an image is sent, it can never be retrieved, and they will lose control of it. Ask teens how they would feel if their teachers, parents or the entire school saw the picture, because that happens all the time.
  • Talk about pressures to send revealing photos. Let teens know that you understand how they can be pushed or dared into sending something. Tell them that no matter how big the social pressure is, the potential social humiliation can be hundreds of times worse.
  • Teach your children that the buck stops with them. If someone sends them a photo, they should delete it immediately. It’s better to be part of the solution than the problem. Besides, if they do send it on, they’re distributing pornography—and that’s against the law.
  • Check out ThatsNotCool.com. It’s a fabulous site that gives kids the language and support to take texting and cellphone power back into their own hands. It’s also a great resource for parents who are uncomfortable dealing directly with this issue.

Beyond just talking with your student there are ways to see if your student is caught up in sexting. Check your cell phone bills. If there a lot of data usage charges on your bill, it means there are some pictures being sent back and forth. Make sure you set limits on what times your teen is allowed to have the phone. Pick the phone up and look through it. If there are any sexually explicit pictures, delete them right away. And if you have to, there are resources online to help track and monitor what happens on your teen’s phone.

The world that I grew up in is vastly different than the world today. My children are and will face pressures once unheard of. Sexting is one such pressure.

As parents, we must be willing to do whatever it takes to guide our children to a point of mature adulthood. Doing so can and will lead to uncomfortable conversations and circumstances. I would encourage all parents to do a little digging on social media, both the positives and the negatives. Arm yourself with information and then use that information to help guide your child to responsibility.

Have you dealt with sexting? What advice would you give? The more conversation we have, the better we all become.

Cyber-bullying [Gothenburgtimes.com, 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.

Sexting

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.”