I could basically re-iterate everything all the experts have said out here but from the research I have done thus far I would only be repeating what has been expressed so far. This list of tips from www.ConnectSafely.org may not be all encompassing, but it gives us so much to go on and it was in a great format I just used it here and I thank them for providing such a detailed list. I will only add this, and I believe it cannot be said enough, COMMUNICATION COMMUNICATION COMMUNICATION. Please if you get nothing from what all these experts are bringing to the table take this away from it. Talk to your children. Let them know you are listening. You just might impressed when you realize that they really are listening to you. They just want you to hear them also.
Tips to Prevent Sexting
"Sexting" usually refers to teens sharing nude photos via cellphone, but it's happening on other devices and the Web too. The practice can have serious legal and psychological consequences, so - teens and adults - consider these tips!
It's illegal: Don't take or send nude or sexually suggestive photos of yourself or anyone else. If you do, even if they're of you or you pass along someone else's - you could be charged with producing or distributing child pornography. If you keep them on your phone or computer you could be charged with possession. If they go to someone in another state (and that happens really easily), it's a federal felony.
Non-legal consequences: Then there's the emotional (and reputation) damage that can come from having intimate photos of yourself go to a friend who can become an ex-friend and send it to everyone you know. Not only can they be sent around; they can be distributed and archived online for people to search for pretty much forever.
Not just on phones. Sexting can be done on any media-sharing device or technology - including email and the Web. Teens have been convicted for child porn distribution for emailing sexually explicit photos to each other.
Many causes. In some cases, kids are responding to peer pressure in a form of cyberbullying or pressure from a boyfriend or girlfriend (they break up, and sometimes those photos get sent around out of revenge). Sometimes it's impulsive behavior, flirting, or even blackmail. It's always a bad idea.
Parents: Talk with your kids about sexting in a relaxed setting. Ask them what they know about it (they may not have heard the term, so "naked photo-sharing" works too). Express how you feel in a conversational, non-confrontational way. A two-way dialog can go a long way toward helping your kids understand how to minimize legal, social and reputation risks.
The bottom line: Stay alert when using digital media. People aren't always who they seem to be, even in real life, and sometimes they change and do mean things. Critical thinking about what we upload as well as download is the best protection.
What to do
We're not in a position to provide legal advice, but we can tell you that laws vary from state to state, each jurisdiction enforces the law differently, and the applicable laws were written before sexting was "invented." With sexting, the same minor can be both perpetrator and victim when producing and sending photos of him or herself - a very tricky situation under current laws.
* If your children have sent any nude pictures of themselves, make sure they stop immediately. Explain that they're at risk of being charged with producing and distributing child pornography. If they've received a nude photo, make sure they haven't sent it to anyone else.
* Either way, the next most important thing is to have a good talk. Stay calm, be supportive and learn as much as you can about the situation. For example, see if it was impulsive behavior, a teen "romance" thing, or a form of harassment.
* Consider talking with other teens and parents involved, based on what you've learned.
* Some experts advise that you report the photo to your local police, but consider that, while intending to protect your child, you could incriminate another - and possibly your own child. That's why it's usually good to talk to the kids and their parents first. If malice or criminal intent is involved, you may want to consult a lawyer, the police, or other experts on the law in your jurisdiction, but be aware of the possibility that child-pornography charges could be filed against anyone involved.
* If a sexting photo arrives on your phone, first, do not send it to anyone else (that could be considered distribution of child pornography). Second: Talk to a parent or trusted adult. Tell them the full story so they know how to support you. And don't freak out if that adult decides to talk with the parents of others involved - that could be the best way to keep all of you from getting into serious trouble.
* If the picture is from a friend or someone you know, then someone needs to talk to that friend so he or she knows sexting is against the law. You're actually doing the friend a big favor because of the serious trouble that can happen if the police get involved.
* If the photos keep coming, you and a parent might have to speak with your friend's parents, school authorities or the police.
These tips were written in April 2009, after several reported cases of teens being prosecuted for taking, distributing and possessing pictures of themselves or friends. While we are aware that such activity is inappropriate and risky, we do not feel that - in most cases - law enforcement should treat sexting as a criminal act. Except in the rare cases involving malice or criminal intent, law enforcement should play an educational role, along with parents, community leaders, school officials and other caring adults.
© 2009 ConnectSafely.org
Tips to Help Stop Cyberbullying
Don't respond. If someone bullies you, remember that your reaction is usually exactly what the bully wants. It gives him or her power over you. Who wants to empower a bully?
Don't retaliate. Getting back at the bully turns you into one and reinforces the bully's behavior. Help avoid a whole cycle of aggression.
Talk to a trusted adult. You deserve backup. It's always good to involve a parent but - if you can't - a school counselor usually knows how to help. Sometimes both are needed. If you're really nervous about saying something, see if there's a way to report the incident anonymously at school. Sometimes this can result in bullies getting the help they need to change their behavior.
Save the evidence. The only good news about digital bullying is that the harassing messages can usually be captured, saved, and shown to someone who can help. Save evidence even if it's minor stuff - in case things escalate.
Block the bully. If the harassment's coming in the form of instant messages, texts, or profile comments, do yourself a favor: Use preferences or privacy tools to block the person. If it's in chat, leave the "room."
Be civil. You're doing yourself a favor. Even if you don't like a person, it's a good idea to be decent and not sink to his or her level. Research shows that gossiping about and "trash talking" others increase your risk of being bullied.
Don't be a bully. You know the old saying about walking a mile in someone's shoes; even a few seconds of thinking about how another person might feel can put a big damper on aggression. That's needed in this world.
Be a friend, not a bystander. Forwarding mean messages or just standing by and doing nothing empowers bullies and hurts victims even more. If you can, tell bullies to stop, or let them know bullying is not cool - it's cruel abuse of fellow human beings. If you can't stop the bully, at least try to help the victim and report the behavior.
© 2009 ConnectSafely.org
Social Web Tips for Parents
Be reasonable and try to set reasonable expectations. Pulling the plug on your child’s favorite social site is like pulling the plug on his or her social life. Instead of being protective, it can shut down communication and send kids "underground" where they're more at risk. It's too easy for them to set up free blogs and profiles from anywhere, including friends' houses or even a cell phone.
Talk with your kids about how they use the services. They, not news reports or even experts, are the ones to consult about their social-Web experience. Help them understand basic safety guidelines, such as protecting their privacy (including passwords), not harassing peers, never talking about sex with people they don't know, avoiding in-person meetings with people they "meet" online, and taking care in what they post - because anything people put online can be grabbed, reworked, and used against them.
Support critical thinking and civil behavior because no laws or parental-control software can protect better than a child's developing good sense about safety and relationships. Research shows that kids who are aggressive and mean online toward peers or strangers are at greater risk of becoming victims themselves. So teach them to be good citizens and friends online as much as offline.
Consider requiring Internet use in a high-traffic place in your home - not in kids' rooms - to help you stay aware of their online time. This way, you can encourage a balance between online time and their offline academic, sports, and social times. Know that there are also many ways kids can access the Internet away from home, including on many mobile phones and game players.
Try to get your kids to share their profiles and blogs with you, but be aware that they can have multiple accounts on multiple services. Use search engines and the search tools on social-networking sites to search for your kids' full names, phone numbers and other identifying information. You're not invading their privacy if they're putting personal info in public "places" online. If their pages are private, that's a good thing, but it's even better if they share it with you.
© 2008 ConnectSafely.org