For Teens : Keeping Yourself and Your Friends Safe Online (part 2)

 

Cyber-Romance

 

You’re bored, it’s Saturday night and he has a great pic on his Facebook. You are finding love in all the cyberplaces. But how safe is it to flirt online, or meet someone in real life that you only know online?

 

Before we begin, remember that “flirting” doesn’t mean taking off your clothes for the camera. You should already know that’s just plain stupid. Flirting should also not involve “cybering,” since that can come back and haunt you. Be funny. Be interesting. Be gorgeous or an athlete. Be smart.

 

Talk about things that you won’t regret later on. Don’t share secrets. Then if you want to take it further, move to a webcam or the phone. (Block caller ID though and remember that they could be recording the cam chat.) Take it slow. And check them out. Visit their school website or Facebook group and see if you can find them there.

 

Check any other personal details they have provided too. If enough time has gone by and s/he is consistent, hasn’t been lying (to your knowledge) and checks out, you can consider meeting them face to face. But you’ll need to follow the safer meeting rules

above. And remember, the only thing hurt is your reputation if something goes wrong online. But teens have really been killed by someone they agreed to meet in real life, after only knowing them online. So, think twice, three times...be careful.

 

Sexting

Sexting uses cell phones or other technologies to take nude or sexual images and share them with one or more people through text messages, video-streaming or online posts. Sexing uses any technology to

 

Although using texts and cell phones to take and share the pics is new, Similar activities have been going on since before you were born. People your parents age used to take these kind of pics with Polaroid cameras (which spit out instant hardcopy pics).The first digital sexting case Parry encountered was in 1998, where a teen girl took videos of herself to give to a boy she liked. He shared that video with everyone online! (And didn’t ask her out either.)

 

All teens know it’s not smart to do this. But many do it anyway. They do it because they are in love. They do it because their boyfriend begs them to do it. They do it when they are bored, desperate, drunk, high, at a slumber-party or just plain stupid.

 

They do it when they like someone and want to get their attention fast. They do it to impress others with how sexy or well-endowed they are or as a “look at what you are missing” message. Younger teens and preteens do it to attract older boys or because they think it makes them more “mature.” The point is not why they do it. The point is what happens afterwards.

 

Jessie Logan, an eighteen year old high school senior from Ohio, took a nude picture and stored it on her cell. A girl she knew liked a boy who liked Jessie. You know the drill. The girl got access to Jessie’s cell and texted the pic to everyone. Everyone in her town saw the picture. They called her names and were horrible to her. When no one tried to help her, she ended up taking her own life. And she is not alone. Many of you have seen the YouTube video of Amanda Todd, the teen from Canada who was blackmailed by a creep who had a topless pic of her. She ended up taking her own life, as did several others under similar situations.

 

While these are extreme cases and still very rare, the humiliation can be more than some teens can handle. And the pics often end up in the hands of creeps who post and share them with other creeps. As in Amanda’s case, many teens have been blackmailed into doing things they didn’t want to do, because the blackmailer knew about or had a copy of one of those pics or videos.

 

And police and prosecutors around the world are now treating this as a serious sex crime. And in some countries, including the US, the teens involved are being charged too. Teens who have taken a nude picture of themselves are being charged across the US as child pornographers and are becoming registered sex offenders. Those who forward the pics are being charged with distribution of child pornography. And those who keep a copy are being charged with possession of child pornography. If you become a registered sex offender you can’t live near a school or public park. Your college must be informed and so will your employers. You will be forever grouped with those creeps we try to avoid.

 

And try and explain that the reason you are a registered sex offender is because you took a nude pic of yourself and posted it on Instagram. Who will believe you? Everyone will think you molested a child.

 

These are real risks and happening to teens across the US right now. So if he tells you that you can prove you love him by taking a nude pic and sending it to him, tell him if he loved you, he wouldn’t ask. And if she tells you that she needs a pic to “remember you by” promise her that all she needs to do to remember you is call or text.

 

Confiding in Strangers Online to Provide You with Important Advice

 

It’s tempting to share secrets or search for places online where you can get advice on things you may not want to discuss with friends or even your parents. But what makes you think that a stranger in an online forum is smart enough to give good advice? And why would you post information in public that you wouldn’t share with family or friends in private?

 

There are some very good places to visit online where experts can advise you on health, safety and personal matters. But you can’t always tell which ones are trustworthy or which ones are crackpots posing as experts. Ask around. Ask your guidance counselor at school, or use a trustworthy resource to help you find one. You can start by looking for a .gov site (they are all run by governmental agencies). Or find a charity you know offline or have heard about in a magazine or on a TV show you trust.

 

Then use privacy settings, a special email address you create just for this and think carefully before you share. The best advice may come from people you trust who know you in real life. But online help can be there when you need it 24/7 and be anonymous too.

 

Who Knows More – Teens or Parents?

 

If we are talking about the Internet, the answer is obvious (even if your dad is Bill Gates). Teens know more about the Internet, at least the way they use it. They know more about cell phones and gaming devices too. But, like it or not, parents know more about life. The good thing is that you can both share what you know with each other pretty easily.

 

You should “have the talk” with them and let them know you won’t do anything stupid, you care about staying safe and know what you need to know to do that. Show them your Facebook and Instagram profiles. (Whether you “friend” them or not is up to you and them.) Show them where you spend most of your time online. Teach them how you search for things. Help them install and use security software.

 

And offer to help keep your siblings, nieces, nephews or cousins safer online. Help your parents set up their own Facebook or Instagram account. Show them how YouTube works. (But be careful which videos you show them. J) Teach them about privacy settings and remind them to check with you before posting any pics of you online.

 

Talk with them about what you want them to do to help you. Parry Aftab said “the best filter is the one between your ears.” Let your parents know you have a pretty powerful filter that’s called good judgment and strong values. Remind them that they can trust you and promise to come to them if anything goes wrong. They can’t help you if they don’t know you need help. You should never face things alone. That’s what families are for.

 

Now, have fun, be safe and don’t be stupid!

 

GO BACK TO PART ONE

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