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Sexting and other things parents don’t know

May 15, 2012

Not your daughter, not your son? Think again. The CBC Vancouver yesterday had a news item about SticKam, an online video streaming/chat site that reportedly has “10 million registered users, most of them under 25 years of age”. An online site that includes graphic sexual activity, extreme profanity, and bullying.

How many other sites are there? What are your teenagers doing in the privacy of their bedroom and what harm is it doing to them? Is your child the one engaging in bullying? Is it your teenager who is baring her chest thinking it is just a game? And who is watching them? The problem is parents of those millions of SticKam (or the many other social sites on the net) users don’t know and don’t engage with their kids to find out.

In my previous post on this topic (The nasty business of sexual exploitation of Canadian children), I set out some of the research and findings associated with human trafficking of children for a sexual purpose, and sexual exploitation generally. One stat bears repeating: 29,000 registered U.S. sex offenders had profiles on the MySpace website [Source: Invisible Chains: Canada’s Underground World of Human Trafficking by Benjamin Perrin]. Who is watching your child?

If your knowledge is like mine was before I started researching this area, look at some of the following links to learn just how easily real teens have been exploited. Watch them on your own, and then with your kids. They can be used as a base for some frank discussion.

  1. Documentary “Sext Up Kids by the CBC.
  2. Think Again” is an award-winning documentary about new trends in the recruitment and exploitation of youth in Vancouver which is on the Peers Vancouver website. Peers Vancouver assists current and former sex workers to successfully transition into healthier lifestyles.
  3. Playground” is a documentary produced by George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Steven Soderbergh and Libby Spears. While the video as a whole is not available without purchase, the YouTube video is a brief excerpt.
  4. The National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children has short real life stories.
  5. The Alberta government has a good website that has true life stories and is visually appealing to kids.
  6. Documentary “Enslaved & Exploited: The Story of Sex Trafficking in Canada, produced by Hope for the Sold Mar 2010.
  7. Stories from The Body Shop’s anti human trafficking campaign, illustrating how easy it is for children to get caught up in trafficking for sexual purposes.

The following highlights some interesting results of recent US studies involving teenage behaviour online or using their cellphone:

  1. A survey conducted in September 2009 of U.S. teenagers, found that 24% of 14‐17‐year‐olds and 33% of 18‐24‐year‐olds have been involved in “some type of naked sexting.” Females between the ages of 14 and 24 are slightly more likely to have shared a naked photo or video of themselves than males (13% vs. 9%). Males in this age group are more likely to report receiving a naked photo or video of someone else that has been “passed around” (14% vs. 9%). While the majority of images are sent to a boyfriend, girlfriend, or romantic interest, 29% of 14‐24‐year‐olds who have engaged in sexting report sending these images to people they only know online and have never met in person. Nearly one in five sext recipients (17%) reports having passed the images along to someone else, with more than half (55%) of those who passed the images to someone else sharing them with more than one person.   [Source: National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy, Sex and Tech: Results from a Survey of Teens and Young Adults , 2008]
  2. 81% of 16- to 17-year-olds report having at least one social networking account. 56% say that their parents know some of what they do online, but not everything, and a quarter (26%) report that their parents don’t have time to check up on what they do online. Girls are more likely to chat online with people they don’t know in the offline world (25% girls overall and 43% among 16 to 17-year-olds). [Source: Youth Online Behavior Study for McAfee, conducted online by Harris Interactive May 4 to May 17, 2010. ] [Both of the above studies were cited in Sexting:Youth Practices and Legal Implications Dena T. Sacco, with Rebecca Argudin, James Maguire, and Kelly Tallon *Cyberlaw Clinic, Harvard Law School for the Youth and Media Policy Working Group Initiative Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University].
  3. While I have been unable to find if any charges have been laid in Canada against someone sexting sexually explicit pictures of themselves, there have been a number of instances of charges being laid in the US in an effort to stop the activity which is something for Canadian parents to consider. [Source: Sexting:Youth Practices and Legal Implications].

Young people might think they know everything but they don’t. They need our support and they need us, as parents, to properly inform them about the risks so they can make good decisions. But before we, the parents, can do that, we need to be better informed ourselves. There are many good sources of information for parents and for teens. I will be telling you about many of them in subsequent blog posts.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 15, 2012 3:59 pm

    Thanks for the impeccable research on a sombre subject.

    • May 16, 2012 8:50 am

      I have learned a lot and it is pretty scary. The important thing is to keep that dialogue going with kids. Thanks for your comment.

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