With teens using smartphones and tablets more than ever, how they use social media can cause big problem. Mobile County District Attorney, Ashley Rich, and Attorney David Greene from Greene and Phillips are here to talk about conversations parents need to have with their kids about being safe online.
Ashley, the first question’s for you, what specifically about these social media apps is dangerous?
One big danger is when teens send pictures of themselves of a sexual nature. Let’s say we have a young man named Tom and his girlfriend Tina sends him a lewd photograph through snapchat. As soon as he sees the picture he takes a screenshot. He then forwards that screenshot on to all his buddies and soon the whole school has seen these sensitive pictures.
I’ve met many parents of girls and boys like Tina who are wondering what can they can legally do to force the bullies to delete that photograph, and the unfortunate truth is that as long as Tina voluntarily sent the original picture, there’s nothing really law enforcement can do. So your kids really need to understand, that whatever pictures they send can be used against them to shame them which can really end up destroying their life.
How big is this problem?
More than half of teens report to being pressured to sext. and research from The National Campaign finds that 38% of teen girls and 39% of teen boys have received sexually suggestive images through text and email originally intended for someone else.
David, what can parents do to help prevent this problem?
Parents need to have very frank conversations with their kids about the dangers of sexting. With my own kids, I’ve had many conversations with them about this. They know that the risk is just too great. Mistakes that kids make online can follow them for their entire lives.
At what age should you be having these conversations?
It’s a conversation you need to have many times over the course of their adolescence, but definitely in conjunction with their first device with social media capabilities.
Ashley, the other side of this issue is the teen who forwards on that picture to their friends. What should parents say about that?
Ask your kids if it’s really worth ruining someone’s life just for the fun of it.
Ashley, from a legal perspective can parents be held responsible for the actions of their kids?
There are certain circumstances where a kid may have a sexually explicit photo of a minor on their phone that’s backed up to a shared apple iCloud. At that moment, the parents are in possession of child pornography.