Children must be watched now more than ever

March 9, 2010 at 8 p.m.
Updated March 8, 2010 at 9:09 p.m.

We live in an age of instant gratification.

Take a picture with your digital camera or cell phone. Click. You see instantly whether it turned out as you had hoped.

What a marvelous invention - unless it's combined with a dangerous childish impulse.

The new term is sexting, which is when children share nude or suggestive photos via cell phones. They typically do this without thinking through the serious emotional and legal consequences of their actions.

This can happen anywhere, including the Crossroads region. Officials at Howell Middle School in Victoria confiscated phones from several students after a teacher learned of an inappropriate image on a phone.

The Victoria police department and district attorney's office investigated the incident. They warned a student could be classified as a sex offender for distributing child pornography.

In most cases, such a charge would be an overreaction. However, the anguish suffered by the subject of a sexting is real and should not be taken lightly.

In the digital age, parents must do more to educate and monitor their children. Before they allow children to have cell phones, they should talk about appropriate usage.

That conversation should start with not texting and talking during a movie, but it needs to go even further. Don't wait for an incident to discuss the dangers of sexting with your children.

The nonprofit Tech Parenting Group offers some tips to parents:

"Stay calm, be supportive and learn as much as you can about the situation.

"Consider talking with other teens and parents involved, based on what you've learned.

"If malice or criminal intent is involved, you may want to consult a lawyer, the police, or other experts on the law."

The group offers these tips to teens:

"If a sexting photo arrives on your phone, first, do not send it to anyone else (that could be considered distribution of child pornography). Second: Talk to a parent or trusted adult. Tell the full story so they know how to support you. And don't freak out if that adult decides to talk with the parents of others involved - that could be the best way to keep all of you from getting into serious trouble.

"If the picture is from a friend or someone you know, then someone needs to talk to that friend so he or she knows sexting is against the law. You're actually doing the friend a big favor because of the serious trouble that can happen if the police get involved."

Someone's life can change in an instant. Don't let your child be a victim or victimize another.



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