Monday, May 19, 2008

What Are YOUR Kids Doing Online?

I’m on my soapbox again, banging the drum and sending out the message that parents need to know what their kids are doing online. All parent. Parents of "good kids". Parents of "religious kids". Parents of middle schoolers. Parents of high schoolers.

Parents should put rules and limits on the use of technology, from the Internet, computers, to cell phones and text messages. No parent should assume that their children are safe or not engaging in immoral or illegal activity using today’s technology.

Parents need to check up on what their kids are doing. Period.

One way to check Internet use is to track with a parental software program such as SafeKeeperPlus (for PC not Mac).

A story from Westport Connecticut broke this weekend:

"(Westport Superintendent Langton) said that parents have to talk to their children about potential dangers online, especially of posting compromising photographs.

"It's important that parents and children communicate, and that's the important word," Darmory said."

Here is more about the situation:

"Middle and high school students have been sharing nude pictures of themselves electronically, the school district's superintendent told parents this week.

In a letter and e-mail, Superintendent Elliott Landon revealed that the video and still images show students completely nude and "engaging in inappropriate acts while in the nude" in their homes.

The images have been forwarded to countless people, according to Landon's Wednesday letter. A few of the students' identities may have been revealed to people who do not live in Westport.

"This behavior is totally unacceptable in terms of our community's mores," Landon wrote. "More importantly, this type of behavior has the potential to be dangerous to the students who are engaging in the transmission of these images of themselves."

NOTE that since the superintendent is involved we are left to assume this was done while at school or viewed with school computers! Who thought that such a thing would be done with school computers! This is what happens when technology makes it to the classroom?

And this--

"Westport police are investigating one incident reported earlier this week, said Lt. David Kassay. He would not reveal whether the case involved multiple images."

The problem is not just happening in Connecticut either. The story references a recent case in Arkansas.

"An Associated Press story last month noted that some teenagers have started using cell phones to send nude pictures of themselves as a form of flirting. Sometimes, the photos end up posted on the Internet."
I read in another article in the Hartford Courant, that recently the same thing happened in Ohio.

The article also mentioned a news story I blogged on last year. It was about the nude photos that surfaced from Vanessa Hughes, that she took and gave to her then-boyfriend. Hughes is a celebrity well known to elementary, middle and high school students, she is a main character in Disney’s hit movie series “High School Musical”. High School Musical 3 will be released this summer in movie theatres, by the way!

While I was blogging another news story a few months ago, doing an Internet search I was led by Google to a LiveJournal blog of a high school sophomore who had blogged the same news story and told her opinion based on her own experience having been at that event. Reading information in just a few of her blog entries I knew her first name, her mother's best friend's first and last name (it was an atypical name in this small community so it was easy to connect that it was someone I know through Scouts). I learned that she was singing in a private choir in this area, what school she went to and that she was a sophomore. The entries were laden with profanity. One entry said that her mother thinks she is promiscuous and that she resented that. She discussed sexual encounters with teen boys, one was in detail, using the boys first names and telling what they did, while they were at home with her parents in the house while they watched a G-rated movie on TV. She also said in more than one entry, while discussing who she thought was hot (by name) that just writing about that person made her want to go and, using a code word, go do something which I'll not mention here. This is the type of thing that younger teens are doing on the Internet. I would bet anything that her parents have no clue she is doing that.

To read the full article about the 'Westport students' as they are referring to them as, go here:

Westport students shared nude photos, schools chief says
By Lisa Chamoff
Staff Writer
Article Launched: 05/17/2008 01:00:00 AM EDT

So what kind of a place is Westport Connecticut? Westport is considered a very desirable place to live in Fairfield County. Here are statistics from with data from the 2000 U.S. Census Bureau. If you are curious what kind of a community would contain teens sharing nude photos online, here it is:

Westport, Connecticut

Population: 25,807

Economic Indicators

Household Income

Household Income
<$10,000 1.8% $10,000-$14,999 2.1% $15,000-$24,999 4.1% $25,000-$34,999 4.9% $35,000-$49,999 8.4% $50,000-$74,999 10.3% $75,000-$99,999 9% $100,000-$149,999 16.6%
$150,000-$199,999 12.2%
$200,000+ 30.4%

(among employed persons over 16)
Mgt./Professional 65%
Service 5.5%
Sales/Office 25.5%
Farm/Fishing/Forestry 0.1%
Construction/Extraction/Maint. 1.8%
Production/Transportation 2.1%
Unemployed 2.1%
Below Poverty Line 2.6%

Educational Achievement:
(among people 25 years or older)

Less than 9th grade: 1%
9th-12th grade (nongrad): 2.6%
High school graduate: 10.4%
Some college: 11.8%
Associate degree: 4.7%
Bachelors degree: 36.6%
Graduate/Professional: 32.9%
High school or higher: 96.4%
Bachelors or higher: 69.5%

Marital Status:
(among people 15 years or older)
Never married: 16.2%
Married: 69.2%
Separated: 0.7%
Widowed: 5.8%
Divorced: 8.2%

Stability/Newcomer Appeal:
Same home 5+ years: 64%
Social and economic indicators
based on 2000 Census sample data.

Are Parents In Denial?

My husband heard an unbelievable story this weekend about a middle school aged boy. Without revealing the story, the point I want to make is when adult in authority confronted the parents about the immoral and also, illegal activity that took place the mother said “My son would never do that, he is a good Catholic boy”. The parent later called the person back and demanded the adult apologize to the child (he refused to do it). The parent to this day refuses to believe their child did the immoral and illegal activity. Parents do not assume your innocent and/or religious children are so innocent. And for the life of me if another adult especially one in a position of authority comes to you to let you know of a problem that happened don’t disbelieve it just because you don’t like the idea of what your child is said to have done.

Other media reports about this story:

WTNH local television news story dated 5/17/08

Hartford Courant article dated 5/19/08

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Sheila said...

My daughter is allowed on Facebook with friends that I approve, but that's it. And she signed up with my email address, so I get all her notifications. I can read all her incoming messages, etc.

She's there under a fake name with no photo so that nobody could ever search for her and find her.

I'm glad I can read her messages, because lately a lot of boys have asked her out. And I can see that she turned them down! I'm so proud.

One got particularly nasty yesterday, and I was able to talk to her about it.

Kids need supervision. Period. Don't let their desire for "privacy" ever take away from your responsibility as a parent.

Visit To Love, Honor and Vacuum today!

Scott said...

My wife and I have been using a product from SpectorSoft for years. It shows us everything that occurs on the computer and even has special features for capturing Facebook and MySpace.

The software is called Spector Pro, you can Google it and find everything you need at their web site.

It records screen snapshots, emails, chats, everything.

My wife is a middle school teacher and she recommends this to all the parents she speaks to.

Luke said...

Did you know that the largest group of viewers of Internet porn is children between ages 12 and 17?

I've also recently learned that according to the second Youth Internet Safety Survey there is a documented increase in the proportion of kids reporting unwanted exposure to pornography.

I'd love to hear your comments on some blog posts I published a while back about cyberbullying and online predators:

1. Safety Tips for Parents:
2. Online Predators:
3. Cyberbullying:

I'm curious: have you heard of the Covenant Eyes filter and accountability programs? What makes them unique is that it gives you the option to simply monitor your Internet surfing, filter it, or both. A good filtering program is very helpful for children and families, but a good monitoring program is great for adults and children alike who want to be accountable to others about where they go online. If you want to know more, read up on it at:

In the end, software is only a tool. I agree with you that nothing can replace a partent's direct involvement. I found this quote from the Journal of Adolescent Health interesting: "A warm and communicative parent–child relationship is the most important nontechnical means that parents can use to deal with the challenges of the sexualized media environment."

Luke Gilkerson
Internet Community Manager
Covenant Eyes