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Double-Dog Dares and Sexting: Kids Do It, Do yours?

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Reflecting on the evolution of youthful mischief and behavior over the last 60 years, one item which has seems to have survived the test of time has been the double-dog dare.

We've all read of the teens who have sent their "special someone" a picture of themselves, oftentimes sans clothing. To some, this is nothing more than the youthful exploration in the difference in anatomy between the male and female body via technology. The same type of activity may have taken place face-to-face in the past, but in the past, the consequences only occurred if your parents found out and didn't (normally) involve a camera. Today, in the age where we are totally connected 24/7, a camera is omnipresent, and not only may your parents find out, but there exists a tremendous probability that others who had no part in the initial share will be recipients of the results of the share in a time and place without context.

Have you taken a moment and asked your technology-enabled child if they are sharing photos of themselves with others via email, video chats, text messages or the like? -- No?
Is having this conversation an invasion into your child's privacy? -- Could it be construed as such?
Have you armed your child with age-appropriate guidance? -- Yes, of course.
Are they able to make decisions which utilize your wisdom acquired over a lifetime of experience? - Umm, No.

If your answers fall into the realm of the above, you still need to get engaged. In the United States, when a nude picture of a child under the age of 18 is shared from one person to another, it is construed as sharing an "illegal image" and in many states, like my own Washington State, it is a crime.

According to an MTV/AP study on "digital abuse," three in ten youths have been involved in some form of nude sexting. MTV went on to create "A Thin Line," which provides excellent advice and content for both parents and youth to engage in discussions surrounding sexting.

It's important that we educate our youth, as underage sexting is a crime. In Washington State, for example, the law designed to protect our youth can actually be applied to the very same child when they are involved in sexting. The law further states a minor involved in consensual sexting with a person his or her age faces felony charges, up to five years in prison and mandatory sex offender registration.

So do take a moment and watch this film, Exposed, produced by the UK's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and targets children age 14-18. And though prepared for a UK audience, it is absolutely suitable for use by parents to share with their teens, high schools with their students and churches with their youth.

The film hits on the following educational points:
  • the reasons why young people are taking and forwarding these images
  • the issue of trust in relationships
  • how photos can end up out of the hands of the intended recipient and be circulated much more widely
  • the speed at which images can be spread on the Internet
  • the online and offline bullying which may occur as a result
  • the idea of digital footprint and online reputation
  • the legal implications of self-generated indent images
  • the process of removing content online, and where to seek further help and advice
  • Why they should not take and send these images.

So parents, don't let a double-dog-dare evolve into a life time of issues.