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Hold the phone

Texting, sexting new concerns for parents of teens

Texting, sexting new concerns for parents of teens

July 31, 2009|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

Gone are the days of sons and daughters hogging the house phone as they chat for hours with BFFs and The One.

Thanks to technology, this phenomenon happens in seconds -- just as long it takes to hit the "send" button on a cell phone.

At a time when some parents are just catching on to text message-ese, and are vetting whether their children need more human-to-human socialization or whether they'll understand y u cnt type evthng lk ths, moms and dads now have one more thing to worry about: sexting.

"Sexting is a new phenomenon," said Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith.

Sexting is the sending of sexually suggestive photos with an electronic device.

A Harris Interactive poll conducted this past spring found that one out of five teens had sent a sext message.

Harris Interactive polled 655 teens ages 13 to 18 on behalf of Cox Communications, in partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. The survey was conducted in April 2009.

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The poll found that 19 percent of teens had engaged in "sext-messaging." Of the sexters, 81 percent were younger than 18.

Smith said sexters can face some serious consequences, such as criminal harassment charges or even charges of child porn.

The good news?

There are plenty of resources on the Web to help parents handle mobile misuse.

Here are a few Web resources for parents, teachers and young people:

  • WebWiseKids.org

    The California-based nonprofit aims to prevent online child victimization by providing resources to teachers, parents and young people.

    The Web site features an interactive cell-phone safety game called "It's Your Call," that covers sexting, cyberbullying and cheating. The game was created through a partnership with Verizon, the Entertainment Software Association Foundation and Potomac, Md.-based WILL interactive.

  • www.netsmartz.org

    This Web site is maintained by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. The site generally addresses Internet safety, but also offers tips on how parents can prevent sexting. There's a downloadable PDF at www.netsmartz.org/sexting.

  • www.cox.com/takecharge

    Cox Communications, a cable company, has tips for parents on how to set boundaries when it comes to the phone, TV and the Internet. The Web site offers a downloadable "Family Contract" for media use, establishing ground rules for TV, Internet and cell phone use. The contract is in PDF form and is available for free to anyone who goes to the site. Go to www.cox.com/takecharge/parents_tools_contract.asp.

  • verizonnationalmedia.com/familycenter

    This cell-phone company Web site has educational material for parents and also offers information about its Wireless Chaperone and other content filtering controls available to Verizon users. The Web site includes a primer on sexting, called "Sexting 101," available to all Web users.

  • connectsafely.org

    The non-profit group advocates safe use of the social and mobile Web and offers several social-media safety tips, which include tips for preventing sexting.

  • onguardonline.gov

    The site is maintained by the Federal Trade Commission with contributions from other federal agencies and nonprofits. The site broadly covers Internet security issues but offers tips for parents on preserving their kids' privacy online. Go to

    www.onguardonline.gov/topics/kids-privacy.aspx

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