30/03/2017 03:53 SAST | Updated 30/03/2017 03:53 SAST

Parents Check Your Child's Phone For Sexting And Cyberbullying

Too many parents are clueless that their children are involved in sexting, cyberbullying, and even digital pimping. Yes I said digital pimping.

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As high speed internet access is gained more and more in Africa, parents need to be aware of the potential threat of bullying, cyberbullying, child porn and sexting by youth, teens and young adults. From time to time parents need to check their children's digital devices and also Google their children and even their friends. The more I speak at conferences, churches and with youth groups the more I see that information needs to be shared with parents and their children. Too many parents are clueless that their children are involved in sexting, cyberbullying, and even digital pimping. Yes, I said digital pimping.

The use of social media to post personal pictures, tantalising videos, stimulating sexual photos and senseless party picts may be fun and exciting, but they can hurt a teen and young adults e-reputation, e-personality and potentially their credit score. You can forget being involved in politics, ministry and in some cases community service. If your "equipment" is posted for everyone to see that is almost a death sentence for community dreams. Employers, educational institutions and even the military have the capability to check Social Media platforms to look for and find potentially harmful information that can stop college entrance, put a stop on receiving scholarships and internships, even prevent starting a promising career in a dream job.

Parents should learn the terminology their children are using online to stop potential problems before they happen, giving their children a smartphone is not very bright without talking about expectations for behaviours and actions. It is almost like giving the keys of their car to an unlicensed driver with no experience and no insurance. The internet contains the worst and the best of human information, but youth, teens and young adults will ultimately be attracted to the parts that are unhealthy and potentially dangerous. The lure of excitement is more powerful than common sense.

Sexting is a dangerous activity that children are participating in, they lack the maturity to understand that as a boy sending a (DP) "dick pic" or a girl sending a (Taco) or vagina pic has consequences that may involve law enforcement and being accused in child porn. Their reputations can be destroyed and that DP or Taco will never go away because information is backed up, archived and stored on servers someplace. Traditional laws did not have to address the sexting and child porn of the last ten to fifteen years, because the Internet Congress has passed legislation to cover these issues and jails contain men and women caught in child porn and prostitution rings.

Parents need to understand they have a moral and ethical responsibility to talk to their children to set expectations, to reinforce values and morals about their conduct and actions online. The online world has dangers and tragedies seen when kids are kidnapped, sexually assaulted or sold as sex slaves when enticed to meet strangers away from home. Sexting; is the sending and receiving of sexually explicit photos and/or text using cell phones with digital cameras. USA Today has reported in past issues that the percentage of men admitted to sending a DP is increasing: those surveyed because they were asked for one, others they wanted to turn the other person on. Other reasons are flirting and to get the other person to send one back. Teen girls have reported that it is important to "check out the junk" to see how real it is because the imagination can be deceptive and all boys lie about the size they have.

"It is the imagination part of sexting that mainly attracts women to it," USA Today 2012 and the thrill for guys. Studies conducted by the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, published in the journal Sexual Health reported No Privacy exists in cyberspace and that those that sext have no idea who is looking at them in the world and have their personal information. During my presentations over the years with community groups, youth, teens and young adult groups and even at the international Preventing Crime In The Black Community I speak realistically to youth, teens, and young adults about the potential dangers and future effects of sexting.

It is not romantic, it is not sexy, it is not what they think when the image is spread to a whole school or the football team, or basketball team or even in their church. Too many young people are still under the idea that their pictures will be deleted when they break up with that boy or girl that they are dating, but the hospitals and even cemeteries show that is not the case when youth, teens and young adults try to or successfully commit suicide because their sexting pictures or video(s) are spread to others and they are harassed and embarrassed at school, in church and in their communities.

Parents need to have these conversations and Google their children to see what is out there in photos, videos and sharing sites, be friends with them online and if necessary contact your cell phone provider and see who they are texting and sending and receiving photos and videos with. Be proactive not reactive... It is important to be proactive before an incident happens and law enforcement comes knocking on your door and takes everyone's devices for an investigation that will be embarrassing for you at work, in church and in your community. Youth, teens and young adults convicted of child porn must register as a sex offender and this will destroy their freedoms social and professional, these are changes that will affect the whole family for years to come.