Alarming number of teens e-mail nude photos of themselves
Vanessa Hudgens and the Cheetah Girls' Adrienne Bailon aren't the only ones with racy pictures popping up. A survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl.com found 22 percent of all teen girls say they have electronically sent, or posted online, nude or semi-nude images of themselves.
The report, being released today, shows that this is a national trend that is even larger among young adults (ages 20-26) where one-third said they have posted or sent racy images of themselves, and almost half have received them.
Any parent who thinks their child would never do it better think again if they haven't talked about it with their kids. That seems to be the real trick here. We never had to deal this issue as kids so many parents don't even think to talk about it. The teen, in a moment of horsing around, lifts her shirt and e-mails a picture. She clearly isn't thinking ahead. They don't think about how fast an image can get forwarded around the Web or that they might one day break up with this boy. Then they find out the hard way that nothing in cyberspace ever dies, that it can haunt them when they apply for college or a job.
Have this talk now, folks. Today.
Here are some tips from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy:
Talk to your kids about what they are doing online
Make sure they understand that messages or pictures they send over the Internet or their cell phones are not truly private or anonymous. Talk about the how the image can get forwarded to people they do not know. College administrators and employers often look at online profiles to make judgments about potential hires or aspiring students. They need to see the short-term and long-term consequences of their actions.
Get on their "friend" list
If you don't know what that is, you aren't on Facebook with your kids. It's vital you know who your kids are communicating with online, just like you do IRL (that's "in real life" for you fogeys), so get over worries that you are being a snoop or a nag. Check out your teen’s MySpace, Facebook and other public online profiles from time to time. If everyone else can look at it, why can't you?
You can still limit the time your kids spend online and on the phone with simple rules like telling your teen to leave their phone on the kitchen counter when they’re at home and to take the laptop out of their bedroom before they go to bed, so they won’t be tempted to log on or talk to friends later.
This includes the boys not forwarding any racy photos they get and immediately deleting them. Just as certain clothes, movies or behaviors are off limits in your home, talk about what language and behavior is allowed online. It doesn't hurt to remind them from time to time about your expectations and be unafraid to pull out the old chestnut "So if all your friends were jumping off the Skyway Bridge..." You know the rest. Share these tips for teens with your kids.
-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne