Saturday, February 26, 2011

Families get the 411 on sexting risk

Families get the 411 on sexting risk

By Kimball Perry The Cincinnati Enquirer, Feb 21, 2011

CINCINNATI — The 16-year-old girl, smitten with her adult boyfriend, e-mailed him naked pictures of herself.
The girl told her parents, who contacted police. Hurt now is a convicted felon in a case that highlights the dangers lurking for children on the Internet.When she wanted to break up with Clarence Hurt of Terrace Park, Ohio, though, he threatened to share those pictures with the world in cyberspace unless she had sex with him.

This is the way kids have relationships now. It's very impersonal. You could be dating for a month and never (have) met," says Dotty Smith, assistant chief juvenile prosecutor in Hamilton County.

The teen met Hurt in an online dating chat room. "They also would exchange photographs of each other ... online," Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Hardman says of the sexually explicit pictures. "As many 16-year-old girls will do, she got tired of him and wanted to move on."
That's when Hurt made his threat.

"The gist of it was, 'You're going to have sex with me or I'm going to put (naked pictures of you) online,' " Hardman says.

Instead of capitulating, the girl told her parents.

Hurt, 21, was convicted Feb. 16 when he pleaded guilty to attempted extortion. Two other charges were dropped. Police analyzed Hurt's computer and found no proof he posted those pictures online.

Smith is part of a group that makes presentations at schools to students and parents about the dangers in cyberspace and how to deal with them.

"The principals tell us to scare them to death," Smith says of her audiences.

The biggest problem, Smith says, is that many parents are ignorant of the access their children have — via cellphones, computers, Internet-connected gaming systems — to strangers, and vice versa.

Parents are "not aware of what some of these devices can do," she says. "It's about good choices with the huge (array) of technology choices we have out there."
Parents must become aware, and make their children aware, that nothing in an e-mail or text is private, Smith says.

"They just simply do not understand the power in their hands," she says.

It's fine to give responsible children cellphones, for example, to know they are safe or have a way to call for help. But parents must realize they still are in charge and need to set limits on cellphones, computers, FacebookTwitter and other social-networking sites.

"You're not going to be prosecuted for being good parents and doing what's best for the children," the assistant prosecutor says.

The children could be prosecuted, though. It's a crime, Hardman says, for minors to take or transmit a sexually explicit picture of minors, even if the picture is of themselves.

Smith's advice: Watch your children when they are on social-networking sites. Check on them every 10 minutes. Don't let them surf the Internet behind a closed door.

If not, Smith tells parents, "you are willing to allow them ... to have access to people anywhere in the world."

She encourages children to wait a few seconds before sending that picture, tweet or comment.

"If we have just one kid pause and think before they hit send, it's worth it," she says.
Hurt faces up to 1½ years in prison when he is sentenced March 14.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why You Need to Watch "Waiting For Superman"

I just watched, Waiting For Superman.  The title comes from one of the producers when, as a child, his mother told him Superman wasn't real.  He started to cry.  Not because a myth was destroyed like finding out there wasn't a Santa Claus.  He was crying because he realized no one was going to rescue him from his life in the projects. He had been waiting for Superman.

Our educational system is waiting for Superman too!  Can it be rescued?  This is a DVD documentary that you and every parent in America needs to watch because it offers hope and practical solutions.

Why should you care?  Your kids are at a Christian school or they are getting good grades at a good public school!

You should care because your future and the future of America depends on it.  I know that sounds like a cataclysmic statement, but it is true.  If we don't drastically improve our educational system soon, it will negatively affect all areas of our lives.

Our schools' test scores are presently one of the lowest in the civilized world. They used to be among the highest.  What happened?

Waiting For Superman, immediately grabs your attention and keeps your interest as it helps you understand the issues.  Why our schools are in trouble.  And what we can do about them.

We have seen and heard of problems in our educational system for years, so why don't "they" fix them?   The problem may seem daunting, but the answer is simple.

As I watched this highly engaging documentary show how individual students were affected, I was near tears. I haven't been this moved by a video or film since The Passion of Christ. 

The situation is tragic, but there are solutions!  And with the solutions, we have hope.  It's a message that needs to be heard.

I STRONGLY encourage you to watch Waiting For Superman and to share it with your friends.  The only way we can change our educational system is to have an informed public.