Back to School: Are you giving your kids cell phones? Talked about sexting?

Aug 19, 2010 by

It’s back to school time.  For those of you with middle school and high school kids in particular, you’re likely sending your child off to school this fall with a cell phone.  Yes, and I’m sure as the age of getting a cell phone continues to drop, there are a good number of you also sending your older elementary kids to school with one, too.

I get this completely.  My kids all have phones and are ready to go back and fill up their phone books with new names and cell numbers. How exciting!

Words of Caution

Yes, you need to remind your children that using the phone during class is a big no-no.  Mine know I’m not going to pay $10-15 in the office to get their phone back if it gets taken up.

But just as important is a frank discussion with your kids about the dangers of sexting, or sending naked or exposed pictures of themselves to others.

The polls all show a rising number of children are doing this on a much more regular basis than most of us would like to even think about.  The news alerts are full daily of examples of someone getting arrested or punished for doing this–including their teachers.


One thing you might consider doing is just going to a store like Walmart and getting what James Bourne would call a “burner” phone. One of those pre-paid deals for about $29.95 that you change out the sim card for with your regular account, but the phone DOESN’T HAVE A CAMERA. (The camera linked here is a little more.  I went to the local store and got the phones.)  That won’t stop the receiving of dirty photos, but it will cut down on the chances that your kids are sending them of themselves.

Of course then there’s the whole age-old conversation about respect.

And then there’s the problem with sending a photo to a temporary “Love of my life” who gets mad in a week or two, breaks up, and in spite or anger, forwards what were once the prizes of this temporarily permanent relationship now ended.  These are the photos that every boy/girl in the school receives, that wind up on the Internet, etc.

Not to mention, that in many states, sending photos of naked or exposed minors is still a minor!

So as your kids get ready to head back to school and you begin your much needed fall vacation from your kids, an ounce of prevention might just help ensure that your break from the kids is smooth sailing.

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Are your cell phone msgs are private if the phone is work provided?

Apr 18, 2010 by

Here's a case of huge significance to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court tomorrow: If you have a cell phone that's paid for by your boss and you send sexually explicit messages or just private ones for that matter, are you entitled to your privacy in what's in the personal messages?

In this case, it's a matter of a police officer's superiors searching through his cell phone and finding personal messages and whether or not that's a violation of his Constitutional rights.   Sexting

A couple thoughts come to my mind right off, and I guess I should read more.  It would seem that text messages, if on a phone paid for by a government entity, that those would be subject to open records and therefore wouldn't be any different than if one were sending the same content via a desk-top computer and email. 

This is a pretty significant question.  And the variations of it that could come to mind are boggling.  Think of this.  If your employer bought the phone you use, but doesn't pay for the service, does that make it your phone or their phone? 

If they pay for the service and you pay for any overages, does that make you the owner of the content or your employer? 

If you're having a bad day at work and you send a note to a friend or your wife and say, "My boss is being a jerk today. I hate this place," and then your boss goes through your phone and decides to fire you because of what you wrote, how is this different than if you did the same thing on the office networked computers? 

According to the link above, "The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2008 that the police officer, Sgt. Jeff Quon, had a reasonable expectation of privacy.

"The appeals court found that the police chief's decision to read the pager's text messages without a suspicion of wrongdoing violated the officer's 4th Amendment constitutional protections against unreasonable searches."

Obviously, the answer to all of this seems to be quite simple and logical, however somewhat inconvenient.  GET YOUR OWN PHONE.  And then that opens a whole slew of new questions.  Can your employer prohibit you from carrying two phones on the job?  What if you're in the military or an emergency services personnel?  Should a police officer be running around with two phones?  Is that a safety distraction?  The questions are endless.  

What do you think?

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NYT Sexting Story Offers Balanced Approach to Modern Tech Issue

Mar 20, 2010 by

I don't find myself agreeing with things in the New York Times very often, but today's article about sexting and legislative bodies around the country dealing with the penalties associated with teens sending nude photos of themselves or others to others or posting them on the Internet actually balanced out and leads me to think there is some merit to changing penalties for doing such.

Should a child who stupidly sends photos of their privates to another be labeled a sex offender?  Probably not.  Should the person who receives it and then sends it to others or charges others for the photo be guilty of something serious?   Probably.  But should they be labeled a sex offender?  Still, probably not.

The NYT story references a federal ruling last week on a Tunkhannock, PA sexting case where a local DA was stopped from requiring three girls to take a mandatory awareness program.  Now I'm not an attorney and I've not seen the court's opinion, but in reading what I've seen, this was less about stopping the DA from prosecuting cases of sexting than it was in how he was dealing with three girls who may not really have been doing what is typically described as such from being punished.

We all live in a Web 2.0 Family world.  The world is changing instantly with the developments in technology and it's natural that our traditional laws aren't keeping up.  And as parents, we clearly are into new territory that no generation of parents ever have had to deal with.  And our digital native children are facing the likes of which we never could have imagined when we were their ages. 

The key remains being active parents and being in touch with our kids.  We have to work with them to help them understand boundaries because we cannot be there for them every minute of their lives.  Part of growing up is making mistakes.  What we can all hope and pray for is that our kids don't make mistakes that the whole world will be able to see for years to come. 

Kudos to legislative bodies attempting to address these new issues.  As noted before here on, there are 14 states this year, and maybe three or four last year that began addressing the issue of sexting.  That leaves more than half still having done nothing to address this issue in their states.  Which means there are millions of parents out there who likely aren't addressing this issue at home either.  And that's when it gets frightening to think about.

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KLTV–East TX TV station does story on senior citizens sexting; this is not a joke

Mar 9, 2010 by

I guess those who work at KTLV in East Texas are trying to prove why they're working at a TV station in such a low-ranked market.  Tonight's feature was a story on the potential of senior citizens in the area sexting–sending sexual photos to each other–that in all parts of the world is getting people put in jail. Images

What an asinine story.  

Their story makes it sound fun to send some one a racy, risque message, photo or video.  They even quote Will Warren, 68, saying "I guess it's fun." 

Then they quote a licensed professional counselor talking about how if older people have feelings for another that they might want to "use what's available," to show it. 

But the point is, sexting is horrible and it's dangerous and this wasn't said at all in this story.  All one has to do is look at the pages of this blog to find how others' lives have been ruined by sending such photos to others, including the 41-year-old school teacher who turned herself in to police last Friday for allegedly sending such materials to a 15-year-old boy. 

The media has a responsibility to handle this subject with a lot more brains than how KLTV has done.  Sure, it may be fun to talk about how grandmas and grandpas are still having a sexual drive and how if they really wanted to, they could take a photo of themselves and send it on to someone else, but the dangers for them are just as real. 

What if granny gets ticked at the naked grandpa and decides she's going to send the photo to all the women in town she has in her cell phone?  What if she sends one to another man and he sends it on to all in town and her grand kids or her own children see it?  What if some nut is sending such photos to grandma and isn't really Grandpa Jones from the farm on the West side of town and instead is some nut who gets turned on by older women's bodies and she gets raped or attacked?

And what about all the children in East Texas who might have seen this story tonight.  "Well, heck!" they might be thinking because of this story, "If grandma and grandpa are sending neckid photos, why can't I?"

And then their granddaughter does it, the boy gets mad at her and sends her photo to all his friends in their quiet little small, East Texas town, ruining the girl's reputation until long after she's moved away, if she ever gets to. 

This was bad journalism on the part of KLTV tonight.  I hope you'll visit their site and tell them they'd better be more responsible in what they put on TV.  While grandma and grandpa might be watching, so are their grandchildren and great grandchildren, and the results of doing what they made light of tonight, might be a little more serious than grandpa getting his horse out of the barn.

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Are Google, Facebook legally responsible for the content others post?

Mar 9, 2010 by

An important issue in the discussion about life in a Web 2.0 Family, involves the legal ramifications to site hosts where millions of people come to post their own content, some of it objectionable, some of it meeting the definitions of cyberbullying and sexting. 

There is an interesting article posted today by Reuters about the "alleged" pressure being added to Google and Facebook over the content that's posted on these sites as others seek to find a deep-pocketed scapegoat for when something bad goes wrong.  I do not understand this way of thinking.  Google_logo[6]

I would suppose you should add YouTube to the mix as well.  After all, they're now said to be the second largest search engine on the Internet. 

Reuters posted: "Although Google, Facebook and their rivals have enjoyed a relatively 'safe harbor' from prosecution over user-generated content in the United States and Europe, they face a public that increasingly is more inclined to blame them for cyber-bullying and other online transgressions." Images-3

To me this feels like more like one of those media-generated theories instead of the focus on plain old common sense, but they do cite the ruling in Italy from Feb. 24 where executives from Google were convicted over a bullying video posted on the site.  Yes, what happened to an autistic boy over the Net was horrible, but was Google to blame for it?  Google has responded to the case by saying they are "deeply troubled" by the case, saying it "attacks the very principles of freedom on which the Internet is built."

In our discussion on BlogTalkRadio yesterday, we talked about whose responsibility it is to teach children about the dangers of sexting and cyberbullying.  You can listen to the show my jumping over to the front page of and clicking the BlogTalkRadio icon. 

To me, there is clearly the need for some sort of multi-national conventions when it comes to the Internet.  I'm not for censorship any more than most Americans, but we live in a world where other governments are all for it. And just like the Net Neutrality battle has raged here in the US and in the Congress, this will continue to be an issue for several years to come. 

We clearly are in a time period of the Internet's life where adjustments in law are needing consideration and in some cases revision.  The problem is there is likely never going to be a one-size fits all solution to the laws surrounding what happens on the Internet, and maybe there shouldn't be.  Just as the Internet is free, so, too, should the people of each nation be able to decide their laws and not be bound by what is necessarily the law in a foreign nation. 

It's a sticky wicket, but my gut is telling me that the providers of the platforms of the Net bare some responsibility for what goes up on their pages, but to hold them legally negligent for what others do or say on their sites seems like an awful stretch. 

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