By now, every kid in America has been warned more times than they care to remember. Be careful about what you post and send on your electronic devices - it can come back to bite you.
In today’s issue is a story of a young area student who has been arrested and charged with a felony after he decided to share sexually-explicit files that his young girlfriend had sent him, after they broke up. Those he gave the files to shared them on with still others.
That’s a horrible thing to do to someone you have cared about, as I’m sure the young man is realizing now. Unfortunately, it is not something you can take back or make right with an apology. It may be very hard for authorities to trace every transmission and stop the material from spreading further.
We don’t excuse this behavior by any means. But the girl also carries some responsibility for sending out the videos in the first place. This was preventable.
What started out as private if not innocent romantic play becomes a tangled mess. A young girl’s privacy is forever compromised, and perhaps her trust is gone with it. A boy faces serious charged at just age 14, and his life will also be changed. Others who have received the material, willingly or otherwise, are put in an uncomfortable position as well.
This is not a terribly unique situation. Every once in a while there is a case like this around here, in which something that a young person thought would never be seen by more than one person, is.
All too often, all of those warnings that teenagers get to take care about what they share or allow to be shared go unheeded. Just another one of those neurotic things that parents and other adults say, like “be sure to wear clean underpants in case you’re in an accident.”
I would urge parents to cut the article out of today’s paper (there are no names), and share it with their children, or at least discuss it with them. What happened to an actual student in one of the local schools they know, may hit home more than all of those lectures. It’s the only way to harvast anything good out of a sad case that is difficult to read, think and talk about, but is everyday realtity in our tech-society.
The other day, a human trafficking expert was giving a talk at Buena Vista University, and also touched on the dangers of putting too much information out there.
Some of those who prey on young people are very adept at using social media platforms. She spoke of one case in which a girl posted on her Facebook page in the heat of an argument that she hated her mother. Just the kind of thing the bad guys, who search for young people with their sites set to “public,” depend on. The trafficker quickly messaged the girl, gained her confidence and convinced her that running away was the best option. Within 45 minutes of making the online post, the dangerous stranger had picked the girl up and taken her from her home. Just that fast.
Parents, pry - it’s part of the job.
Ask your child what online sites they are on, and make sure they have set them on high privacy level, not public. Make sure the people they have accepted as online friends really are the kind of people they can trust to have access to their personal material. And double-check that bio profiles for juveniles are left blank - sharing their age, where they live or go to school is just unnecessary risk. Their real friends already know that stuff, anyway.
As every young person has been lectured ad naseum, nothing you put on the internet is ever truly private or safe, even if it has been deleted.
Careers and relationships have been destroyed by pictures, video, posts or messages that show up maybe years later. Things that were meant to be funny, innocent or romantic at the time, don’t turn out to be when they cost you a job or alienate loved ones.
Professionals who give people advice on how to fix their financial messes always start with, “Think twice.” Before you make an impulse buy, put that item down and take time to think about whether you really need it. Is it good for you and worth your hard earned cash?
The same can be said of every post you make, every picture you send out to others. Think twice.
Is it worth it?
Make a bad purchase at the mall and you can take it back. You can never really take back what you put on the internet in an unguarded moment, and it can hurt you or someone you care about in a place a lot more important than the wallet.