Gone are the days of whispered gossip or passed notes that could easily be destroyed, leaving word of mouth as the only evidence. The majority of today's tweens and teens carry cell phones, now equipped with Internet, video sharing and speedy posting to Twitter and Facebook.
Whether your child is online or not, their friends probably are. What they do or say could be recorded by someone else and shared with the world before they even have time to consider the possible ramifications... with no turning back.
Information on the Internet travels far and fast, and your teen needs to be aware of the potentially devastating consequences of what they share -- or allow to be shared about them -- online. Not only do parents need to be cautious about privacy settings and online predators, they need to make sure their teens are aware that their everyday life choices could be caught and shared online, and what they share about others could affect them as well.
Making news this week is the frightening scandal involving 14-year-old Amber Cole caught on video performing oral sex on a boy at school. The video was uploaded to Facebook and then went viral, resulting in arrests of two boys who posted the video, and leaving the young girl with rumored threats of suicide, hateful and disgusting messages from strangers online and a forever-tarnished reputation.
Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have not only caused teen bullying to skyrocket, as anything posted online in a public forum is subject to persecution, they have also become a permanent record for your kid's mistakes. We all have regrets, but imagine if your bad choices were caught on video or in a photograph for everyone to see?
Teens might not realize how far reaching the extent of their online habits could hurt them later in life. A lecture about how their online presence could affect applying for a job in the future is valid, but it might not matter to them today. Emphasizing that it could make or break their current reputation or a friendship might be a better way to help them understand. These Four Rules For Parents of Facebook Kids truly relate to all areas of social media and sharing information online.
In the Amber Cole case, all parties have found themselves in life-changing situations -- the boys who posted the video face child pornography charges, and Amber herself must deal with the cyber-bullying and a ruined reputation. An extremely important lesson to learn is that anyone passing along information like Amber Cole's video, including sexual text messages or sexting, is also potentially committing a felony. Even if your daughter willingly shares nude cell phone pictures to a boyfriend, it is considered child pornography and could be classified as a felony. Guide your teen to make sensible choices online and offline. The consequences can be emotionally and legally devastating -- for life.
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