Children and Revenge Porn: There are No Private Moments On-line

 

Revenge Porn

Children can no longer be considered safe in their own bedrooms. If you have a teenaged girl, chances are she’s been asked to send a naked “selfie” to someone else either through a mobile app on her phone or the webcam on her laptop.

If that statement isn’t disturbing enough, the next one is sure to send a chill down your spine. Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) studies indicate children as young as seven post explicit images of themselves online, thus compromising themselves, their families and the images to be identified and viewed by strangers.

Professor Jeff Temple, a psychologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, studies sexting. His research indicates 70 percent of girls he surveyed have been asked to send nude photos of themselves. Boys were more likely to ask for these photos, which is no surprise. Something else that isn’t surprising: sexting precedes actual sex acts for the subjects he studied in 2012.

There are chat rooms, online dating sites, mobile apps, social media platforms and other technical devices, including baby monitors, which can be hacked and cause security breaches. Items that were meant to provide entertainment, promote efficiency and provide a sense of security are actually sources of danger.

Thus, the double edged sword of technology has forever changed the way we interact with others. Technology has decreased our inhibitions and increased access to our information that compromises our identities, finances, and physical and psychological safety. There are no private moments on-line.

Our children, as they are exposed to news stories about people they admire who have become “victims” to photo leaks, in turn, become desensitized not only to the topic, but perhaps even emboldened in their own behavior.Taking nude “selfies” seems fashionable and okay. We have to tell them otherwise.

Here’s what actress and model Gabrielle Union had to say after her nude photos were breached in a huge celebrity leak/scandal that took place last fall:

“Our private moments, shared and deleted solely between my husband and myself, have been leaked by some vultures…for anyone else being affected by these and other hacking and hate crimes – we send out love support and prayers. We have done nothing wrong.” – Gabrielle Union

Ms. Union’s statement, “we have done nothing wrong,” is loaded. As a leader in her industry, she sets an example, whether it is intended or not, for society. And although her claim may help other adults feel less culpable about their actions, it sends the wrong message to those who are too young to truly comprehend their actions and the consequences.

Children who sext do so because they’ve been enticed to send photos to garner favor, become more popular, or impress another child or even an adult. However, sending a nude photo can result in a much different set of responses than the ones intended by the sender.

The new “bathroom name and phone number on the wall,” is now called “revenge porn,” thanks to technology. As innocent as a nude selfie may seem, meant to be a token of affection sent to a childhood sweetheart, this image can be a dangerous tool of destruction. The image may wind up not only on the device of the intended, but on porn sites and on child pornographers’ pages. Children as young as 11 are becoming victims of “revenge porn,” perpetuated by their peers.

Talking to children about the dangers and the real consequences  from one bad cyberspace decision is the first defense against future risks. Not only are there internet predators seeking unsupervised children who are on-line to exploit, children themselves can become juvenile delinquents when they engage in sexting or cyberbullying.

Under Senate Bill 407 in Texas, first time violators who send or possess illicit images face class C misdemeanor charges, which can be upgraded to a class B class should the behavior continue. Promoting photos to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass or offend another can also be punishable by a class A misdemeanor for a third offense. The defense for these actions can be complicated, depending on the nature of the photos,

In addition to a variety of court ordered educational programs, schools are encouraged to teach about the legal consequences, as well as the social consequences to sexting and “revenge porn.” However, parents need to be proactive in talking to the children in conjunction with these educational programs provided by schools.

The first and most important thing anyone can do to minimize their children’s risks is to talk to them about the inherent dangers of modern technology. The next most important action is to instill a “think before you post,” mentality when it comes to texting, posting or emailing anything. The rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t want your mother, your employer, your teacher, your spouse or your children to see something on-line, don’t post it!

Here are more tips to make your digital experiences less risky.

  • Install encryption software to add a level of security to your antivirus and firewall.
  • Never click on a suspicious link. Each time you choose to subscribe to a mobile app or download a newsletter or something that looks like free software, you put your identity and your devices at risk. Viruses can be spread through malicious software. Make certain mobile apps off limits for your children. They have no business being on Tinder, Yak, SnapChat, or the myriad of other invasive applications that are recipes for a privacy disaster.
  • Apply the appropriate security settings for your computer, phone and any social media platforms you use. Do not allow real time access to GPS location settings that show others where you are!
  • Update passwords on a regular basis and be sure to use a combination of numbers, upper and lower case characters and symbols.
  • Test your social media reputation by logging out of each platform and searching for your profile through Google Incognito.
  • Don’t use public WiFi connections without password protection.
  • Be sure to log out of every account you access from public connections or on a public or employer’s computer.
  • Don’t be a digital hoarder and wipe old devices. Did you know the U. S. Government has the right to access everyone’s emails, as long as they are more than 180 days old and might be useful for an investigation? Get rid of digital information you don’t need or store these to a secure, removable USB drive for future access. Be sure you wipe the memory of any device you plan to sell or donate.

End Revenge Porn, which is an advocacy organization for people who are victims of cybercrimes, such as revenge porn, has some startling statistics about the practice. The facts are important to share with children and adults alike and are a sobering reminder that there are no private moments on-line. Here is a link to the website: http://www.endrevengeporn.org/revenge-porn-infographic/.

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About the Author

Mark Seguin is the owner and founder of TBG Solutions, Inc., and author of the book, Be Safe in CyberSpace: a Family Guide to Cyber Safety. Seguin, a certified Identity Theft/Risk Management Specialist, has helped thousands of people, including students, teachers, business owners and their staff combat the risks associated with social media, i.e., sexting, cyberbullying, and other mistakes, identity theft, active shooter response, customer service and team building through his company, TBG Solutions, Inc.

Seguin is a member of the staff development team for Tyler Junior College, a member of The Better Business Bureau of East Texas and of the Tyler Chamber of Commerce. He is endorsed by TexasISD.com, a leading on-line and trusted source of information and on-going training for Texas educators. He is a sixth generation Texan and calls East Texas home with his wife, Elizabeth, and their five children.

 
© 2016 Mark Seguin