Popular social networking sites tout that 94% of teens are online with 43% percent of their online profiles set to "OPEN;" meaning that anyone can view profile contents. One popular site asserts that they have 400 million active users with that number doubling every six months. Considering these staggering numbers, crime is only limited by the human imagination.
One growing trend involves "SEXTORTION;" a practice of coercing an individual into sending sexually explicit images/videos and then using those images as leverage to compel the originator to send additional images/videos or even engage in sexual conduct. So, how does this happen?
Often, someone (suspect) creates a fake profile or chat posing as someone else who then makes a request to "friend" or otherwise have contact with the individual. The suspect sends a picture or video depicting the fake persona and requests return pictures/videos. Believing that he/she is sending a picture to a known friend, the victim snaps a few revealing images and hits send. The suspect then begins to threaten the victim. The victim is told to send more compromising pictures or the suspect will post the previous images on a porn site. He/she will often send links to the porn site in order to prove that he/she is serious about the threat. In an effort to further control the victim, the suspect often gathers information from social networking sites and then threatens to send the compromising pictures to parents, friends, etc.
This problem is further exacerbated by the growing trend of video chatting with complete strangers. One recent case involved a young girl visiting her friend's home. The two girls decided to have some "fun" on the computer by striking up a video chat with an unknown person. The suspect began to flatter the young girls and encourage them to disrobe and pose in compromising positions. The girls agreed, believing their actions to be harmless, as they were communicating with a total stranger in another part of the country. The suspect captured the video images and began to threaten to disclose the girls' escapades if they did not comply with his demands. Fortunately, an engaged parent learned of the situation and contacted law enforcement. The suspect was eventually arrested and the investigation revealed an additional 25 victims. The suspect reported that his "sextortion" strategies were successful about 85% of the time.
While the internet has many positive benefits, evolving trends remind us of the need to remain vigilant in our efforts to protect our young people. This challenge is too great for any single individual. As such, we must continue to strengthen and educate our community of support. Working together, we will be much better prepared for the evolving dynamics of "Cyber-life."
Brought to you in Partnership with iKeepSafe
DURHAM, N.H. – Two new studies from the University of New Hampshire Crimes against Children Research Center suggest that concerns about teen sexting may be overblown. One study found the percentage of youth who send nude pictures of themselves that would qualify as child pornography is very low. The other found that when teen sexting images do get to police, few youth are being arrested or treated like sex offenders.
The studies were carried out by researchers at the University of New Hampshire's Crimes against Children Research Center, and published online today by the journal "Pediatrics." The research is presented in the studies "Prevalence and Characteristics of Youth Sexting: A National Study" and "How Often Are Teens Arrested for Sexting? Data From a National Sample of Police Cases."
In the first study, UNH researchers surveyed 1,560 Internet users ages 10 through 17 about their experiences with sexting -- appearing in, creating, or receiving sexual images or videos via cell phone or the Internet. The study found that 2.5 percent of youth surveyed have participated in sexting in the past year, but only 1 percent involved images that potentially violate child pornography laws -- images that showed "naked breasts, genitals or bottoms."
"Lots of people may be hearing about these cases discovered by schools and parents, because they create a furor, but it still involves a very small minority of youth," said lead author Kimberly Mitchell, research assistant professor of psychology at the UNH Crimes against Children Research Center.
In the second study, researchers discovered that in most sexting cases investigated by the police, no juvenile arrest occurred. There was an arrest in 36 percent of the cases where there were aggravating activities by youth, such as using the images to blackmail or harass other youth. In cases without aggravating elements, the arrest rate was 18 percent.
The second study was based on a national sample of 675 sexting cases collected from a systematic survey of law enforcement agencies. The study also found that the very few teens who were subjected to sex offender registration had generally committed other serious offenses like extortion and forcible rape.
Teens Getting Schooled in What's Not Cool in Support of National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month
If you have a teen lurking in your home, you have inevitably been informed at one time or another that something you've just said or done was "sooo not cool." Since the beginning of time "cool" has always had a place in teen vernacular. More than a word, a state of being, that has never been considered outdated. It is without irony then that That's Not Cool, A public education initiative to prevent teen dating abuse, has taken off. This initiative includes a web site focusing on abuse prevention that delivers a clear and concise message to teens about exactly what is NOT COOL in a way that they can relate to.
That's Not Cool concentrates on preventing controlling or abusive behavior occurring within the digital universe (online, cell phone, etc.). The message and delivery could not be more relevant in today's environment of sexting, cyber bullying and general digital abuse. This site wisely encourages teens to draw their own lines about what is, or is not, acceptable relationship behavior rather than lecturing. There are fun, yet educational videos (see below), call out cards and games.
February 2011 marks the 2nd Annual National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, so take time over the next few days and weeks and encourage your Teen to spend some time discovering what is not cool at That's Not Cool.
Sexting isn't making anyone any money (that I know of), but 3 in 10 young people report being a part of some kind of naked sexting (either sending or receiving). One in 10 report sending a naked picture of him or herself. This translates into more people sexting than using their cell phone to access pornographic web sites.
Parents are shocked by this, but some teens just see it as a part of life or no big deal.
So what now? We educate the youth. We (as parents) spend time talking with our kids about the realities in the world. We incorporate the new technology into the teachings at school, and we hope for the best. All we can do is teach them about using technology responsibly and the risks that they face. It is up to the youth to decide what to do with the information.
What are your thoughts on how to best educate the youth about the dangers of sexting?
Just like the fact that schools have the right to search lockers and companies have the right to read employee email, the decision is not limited to communications via company email.
The next time I use company email to confirm dinner plans with my husband, I will keep this decision in mind. Even though it isn't too personal, I know that my boss could read the mail if she had cause to check my mail. Will this decision make you change your behavior with company cell phones, pagers or email?
This leads to another question of mine. Are teens, and eventually society, going to be so desensitized to what is now considered to be shocking behavior online? 150 years ago it would have been shocking to see women wearing pants in public. 100 years ago it was shocking that women were fighting to vote. Couples being divorced was shocking in the 1950s.
What do you think? Will hot news stories about teens sharing inappropriate pictures online even be newsworthy in the future? Or is this something that will still be shamed in years ahead?
According to this MSNBC article, I am not the only person to use company resources for personal reasons. This one more personal than my example: "Jeff Quon, a California SWAT sergeant, was given a pager from his employer, the Ontario Police Department. He was later found to have used the device not only for work but also for pleasure, often sending sexually explicit text messages to his wife and his mistress."
Quon's employer found out by reading the texts, siting that the pager was "owned by the department". Quon felt that it was a violation of his privacy. The courts were brought into the mix and it is now going to be escalated to the Supreme Court to determine if the department had the right to read the texts.
The Supreme Court heard the case last Monday and a decision is expected by the end of June.
Regardless of how it turns out, this will effect most workplaces. What do you think the outcome should be? Should the messages be kept private? Or did the department have the right to read them?
Just a few short years ago, a young person could do something they might or might not later regret, but there was no photographic evidence of it. There were no pictures nor videos of embarrassing situations to end up in a place where the entire world could see it at any point. More to the point, parents, future employers, and future spouses or even future children, would never see it. This is no longer true.
The question is how do we modify the behavior? We (educators, parents and advocates) talk about it constantly. Most of the time, if the people in these situations would think, just for a second, about possible consequences, a crisis can be averted.
We hope that this wouldn't happen to our own kids, but someone's kids are posing for these pictures. I talk a lot on this blog about a variety of ideas, but I am curious about your ideas.
How would you (or have you) talked to your teens and young adults about how to avoid these very embarrassing situations? What would you tell your 18 year old self if you had the chance? I may feature your tips in a future post.
The two stories featured were a young girl who sent a topless picture of herself and a boy who forwarded a picture of his girlfriend from his cell phone. She ended up having her picture sent to everyone in not only her school, but other schools as well. He was convicted as a sex offender and is facing those consequences (including not being able to get a job or even live with his father because of the proximity to a school). Neither person was anyone I would think would even think of doing anything like this. Both described that 'they didn't think' anything bad would happen and certainly would never have done it had they thought about consequences. I could see myself in both of these young people.
The entire episode is available online. I re-encourage you to watch it with young people in your life. It is an important topic that might lead to helping them think about consequences.
Once you watch it, post your thoughts about the documentary in the comments. Do you see yourself, or your kids, in those featured?
In the last few months the topic of sexting seems like it is everywhere. We talk about it here on SafetyClicks a lot, but the same concerns we discuss are in the main stream as well. A recent episode of The Deep End, a new ABC show about a law firm, one of the clients was a teen facing charges distribution of child pornography for a picture taken of his girlfriend. The teen being charged with child pornography for sending a nude picture of their girl/boyfriend is not all that uncommon since the laws are not prepared for this kind of behavior.
If you want to watch the episode of 'The Deep End', you can watch the full episode online. On the show everything works out thanks to the savvy lawyers - do you think you would have the same luck?
What do you think about the topic of sexting showing up so much in pop culture?
How to keep our families safe while using technology is just one of the challenges . Enough.org has some shocking statistics on their web site. This is just a small sampling:
- Every second, $3,075.64 is spent on pornography
- 79% of youth unwanted exposure to pornography occurs in the home
- Child pornography has become a $3 billion annual industry
- 20 percent of teens have engaged in cyberbullying behaviors, including posting mean or hurtful information or embarrassing pictures, spreading rumors, publicizing private communications, sending anonymous e-mails or cyberpranking someone.
- 14 percent 7th-9th grade students reported that they had communicated with someone online about sexual things
- 30 percent of teenage girls polled by the Girl Scout Research Institute said they had been sexually harassed in a chat room. Only 7 percent, however, told their mothers or fathers about the harassment because they were worried that their parents would ban them from going online"
Enough Is Enough has developed a program called Internet Safety 101. Holly Hawkins, the Director of Consumer Policy & Child Safety (and one of our very own bloggers ) calls the program "a truly unique teaching series designed to bring Internet safety education into the busy lives of parents and other caregivers." She has witnessed how this program has really empowered parents and teachers regarding online safety.
I am not sure it is ever going to be possible to make the Internet 100% safe for all members of the family - but I do think that through education and empowerment, we can make it a safer place for everyone.
"My child wouldn't do that"
These are things people say about the youth in America. The first is what people say when someone takes something small and makes a huge deal about it. The second is what people say when they hear of a teen doing something that they never thought would happen. The third is what parents might say when they are asked if their teen has ever done anything they wouldn't approve of.
We've been writing about Sexting for a while. As an attempt to stop it, some have been very heavy handed with penalties for sexting including being charged for trading child pornography. Some don't see it as that big of a deal.
As a part of MTV's 'A Thin Line' campaign to stop digital abuse, they are showing a documentary called "Sexting in America: When Privates Go Public". In their research, they site that 3 out of 10 young people have either sent or received nude "sext" messages and only 51% of them believe that their digital actions could come back to haunt them later.
It is being aired on MTV this Sunday. When I checked my local listings it is being shown again a few more times this week. I think it would be a great thing to watch the young people in your life. Do you think you will watch this?
At the end of the school year, she sent a nude picture of herself to a boy she liked. Sadly, it found its way around not only her school, but another as well. The school officials found out and her parents found out. Her school suspended her for the first week of the following school year, and her parents grounded her for the summer. But the worst punishment came in the form of continued tormenting from other students. Eventually, she felt the only option was to end her life.
This kind of story is tragic, but can also serve as a conversation starter between teens and parents. Just asking teens what they think about the story and unintended consequences can be a good way to open the dialog on what might be a difficult discussion to have with teens.
How have you started conversations about sexting?
* Nearly 80% of teenagers own cell phones, up 36% from 2005.Advantages to teen texting:
* The average age for getting a first cell phone is between 10 and 11; about 50% of kids 8 to 12 years old have one.
* Teens with cell phones average 2,272 texts per month (that works out to 75 per day), and only 203 calls.
* More than 40% say they can text blindfolded.
- Most carriers have a relatively inexpensive "unlimited texting" plan.
- You don't have to listen to the squealing of "Oh My God!" Instead teens can quietly text "OMG!"
- Texting can be more convenient because the recipient doesn't have to be available to answer right away (i.e., "Mom, I'll be home at 4:00.")
Downsides of teens texting:
- There is a whole new language to be learned that might be hard for parents to pick up.
- While talking on the phone at dinner isn't as much of an issue, texting has replaced this habit.
- Texting sexually suggestive or hateful messages might seem "safer" than other avenues because there is no face or voice. (even though they can be forwarded)
- Texting while driving is very unsafe (even if you can text blindfolded) and illegal in most states.
Like anything else, there is a time and a place for texting. I got a cell phone with a keyboard so I could take advantage of the benefits without having to memorize which numbers have which letters on the phone. I have found it to be very convenient for quick communication to friends and family with non-timely messages. As long as there is a level of etiquette with texting, I think it is a great form of communication.
What do you think about texting? Do you love it? Hate it? Don't get it? Wonder how to get rid of it?
The online world is one place that teens can experiment with who they are with a small sense of anonymity. While participating in sports communities, you can be the rough and tough sports enthusiast. While on the technology sites, you can embrace your inner techno-geek. Keeping in touch with friends on the popular social networking sites is easy to be the easy-going, carefree person you know you are. The photo you post as your avatar/profile picture can show off any style you can imagine.
Your online persona isn't a private dressing room though – it is public. This can be great, but it can also be detrimental.
We know that 20% of teens say they have been solicited online. A new study shows that the more provocative the online persona, the higher the chance of being solicited. This makes perfect sense. Sexy images (even those that are animated) or using sensual language sends a message that you are looking for a sexual relationship.
While you can use profiles and the Internet to try out new personality traits, make sure they are traits you actually want to portray. Remind yourself of the tips to keeping safe online and think about how people who don't know you might see you.