The Internet is essential part of all our lives, ever more so for teenagers who have grown up never knowing life without it than for old fogies like me who can actually remember a time when there WAS NO INTERNETZ!
And we’re not just accessing the web from our home computers. Kids can get online while on the go from smartphones, tablets, and even in a limited way from some e-readers.
While all of this creates a wealth of wonderful possibilities for learning and education, there is a dark side. And unfortunately, this one doesn’t have cookies.
According to a Harris Interactive-McAfee study conducted in Oct 08, 52% of teens have given out personal information online to someone they don't know offline including personal photos and/or physical descriptions of themselves. Double the number of teen girls have shared photos or physical descriptions of themselves online as boys. (34 percent girls vs. 15 percent boys)
Sexting is also becoming a widespread problem amongst teenagers. Well, not just teenagers - even some allegedly bright Congressmen can show an astonishing lack of judgment, and what's crazy is that a teenager who forwards a sext of another teen would face harsher punishment than Congressman Anthony Weiner. Why? Because a teen who sends or receives a picture of a naked underage teenager is distributing child pornography. That teen could end up with not just a criminal record but the requirement that they register as a sex offender. Scary, scary stuff.
Here are some startling statistics about Sexting from a 2009 MTV/AP Research Study for A THIN LINE.org
3 in 10 young people report having been involved in some type of naked sexting
1 in 10 has shared a naked image of themselves
Females are slightly more likely to have shared a naked photo or video of themselves (13%) than males (9%)
Those who have shared a naked photo or video mostly report that they initially sent the photo to a significant other or romantic interest. However, 29% of those who have sent sexts report sending them to people they only know online and have never met in person. 24% sent sexts to people they wanted to date or hook up with.
61% of those who have sent a naked photo or video of themselves have been pressured by someone else to do so at least once.
Bearing in mind that all schools these days include Internet Safety in the curriculum and most parents have reiterated the message at home, how come kids are still experiencing such a disconnect between what they're hearing and their behavior online?
It was this question, inspired by hearing a true life story about a girl who'd left with an Internet predator and her reaction when apprehended by police, told to me by an FBI agent who came to talk at my son's school, that inspired my new novel, WANT TO GO PRIVATE?
I've created two informational websites around the book. WANTTOGOPRIVATE.COM for parents, teachers and librarians and CHEZTEEN.COM for teens. Both will have a comprehensive curriculum/discussion guide that can be downloaded in PDF form later this week.