For example, the Seattle Pi reported
"Two Issaquah girls accused of hacking into a classmate's Facebook page and posting lewd messages were charged Monday with
cyberstalking and first-degree computer trespassing." These 11 and 12-years-old girls are now facing felony charges.
It's unlikely these 6th grade girls' parents knew what they were doing on Facebook until the police got involved. It's unclear
if they had even approved their girls getting Facebook accounts; Facebook tries to enforce a minimum age of 13.
These girls now have criminal records which would be unlikely to have happened before the digital age. They quickly learned how
seriously the law takes cyberbullying.
There are lots of other stories of kids getting in trouble by using Facebook to
publicly humiliate someone. There were 28 students at McClure Middle School in Seattle
suspended after bullying a
classmate on Facebook
Some kids are also breaking the child pornography laws by sexting - sending nude or nearly nude images of themselves to others. According to Common Sense Media, approximately 20% of teens have done sexting. Police confiscated the cellphones of 11 middle school students in Bothell, WA
who were involved in a sexting scandal. These students are under investigation and may face criminal charges.
Therese Fowler's teen son was arrested for sexting. Her experience led her to writing the book
In a letter she explained, "A few months after my son's arrest, months in which his lawyer had urged us to stay silent about
what was going on, the idea for Exposure
came to me. I'm certain it grew from
my horror and frustration with what was going on, and the effects events had on my son and on our family. I asked my son what
he thought about my writing a novel inspired by the situation, and he was fully supportive. I wouldn't have done it otherwise."
Hopefully the lessons in Fowler's story can help others avoid similar problems.
Monitoring Your Children's Use of Digital Technology
Your job of keeping your kids safe online is a tough one! It's hard to provide guidance to your
children if you don't know what they are doing.
Your children have many ways to access the internet - computers,
cellphones, IPODs, handheld games and game consoles often have internet access. When you think about how to keep your kids
safe, you first need to consider how they access the internet.
For younger children, these approaches can help restrict
inappropriate internet access:
- Monitoring software, parental control software
- Software that only allows access to a limited set of predefined web sites
- Parental approval required for any new web sites
Monitoring software is by its nature historical. It doesn't prevent children from making poor decisions online; it typically alerts you to what has already been done. While monitoring software can provide helpful information about what your children are doing online, you still need to play a large role in helping your children think before they click.
You can help yourself out by establishing rules like no TV or computers in your children's bedrooms. Have them turn their cellphones in at night too so that they aren't busy texting when they should be sleeping! Helping Kids Think Before They Click
Teaching children to think ahead to possible consequences isn't easy. Thinking through consequences before acting is rather sophisticated for children whose brains aren't fully developed until their mid-20's! The prefrontal cortex which is responsible for thinking through consequences is one of the last areas to completely develop.
Plan to have multiple small discussions with your children on their use of digital technology. News stories can be a great source of conversation. Listen carefully to their thoughts and ideas to gain a better understanding on the depth of their thinking.
It's important to cover topics like:
- Anything entered on the internet or shared via texting is permanent and traceable.
- Be careful not to give away too much personal information.
- Post only things you'd be happy for your grandparents, teachers and college admission counselors to see.
- Talk to us about anything that seems odd or bothers you when online.
- Ask for approval before downloading anything.
- When online, take into account that people can lie about things like their age and gender.
Give careful consideration to when you feel your child is ready to handle the additional responsibility of a digital device or web site. If in doubt, delay it until they are older and more mature.