Pics, pics and pics! Taking, sharing and commenting on pictures and videos online is one of teens’ favorite pastimes. They take them using their cell phones, Xbox 360, pocket video cameras and wifi-capable digital cameras. They store them on their DS and PSP devices, computers, flash drives, media cards and online services. The good thing is that these pics let them share their creativity and lives with family and friends. The bad thing is that it lets them share their personal information, impulsivity and sexuality with everyone online. Sexting (when young people share nude or sexual images of themselves and friends with others using text-messaging on cell phones) and Sexing (when they use any digital technology, including cell phones to do this) is on the rise and far more common than parents know.
Good teens, model students and teen leaders alike are all likely candidates for “girls gone wild” online! They start at about 13 and continue throughout their teens. The younger ones do it to look “mature” and audition for the older boys’ attention. The older teens do it to show how much they “love” their boyfriend or to get even after a bad breakup, showing him how much he is “missing.” They do it from a slumber party for fun, or take the pic of one of the girls they don’t like in the bathroom, locker room or dressing room to use as a weapon to hurt her. And boys do it too. Not as often as girls, but far too often.
And a picture is worth a thousand words! Even the more careful teens will share pictures or videos online that give away far too much personal information about them. Their house may appear in the background, or their car with license plate in plain view. Their Girl Scout uniform can give away their troop, which in turn gives away their location and activities. And even if they are careful about what they post, their friends may not be.
What’s the takeaway? Sit down and ask to see their “pics.” Look through their collections on their cell phones, gaming handhelds and Xbox, on their computers, flash drives and media cards and on Facebook, MySpace, myYearbook and Youtube and at PhotoBucket and Flickr online photo-sharing sites. Look at their friends pics too and follow your teen’s tagged pics. (They will show you what that means.) Be interested, don’t be a snoop. You may have some fun, share in your teen’s life and help them be safer all at once! If you don’t ask…they won’t tell!