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April 20, 2009 - Betsy Bethel
The first I heard of people sending porn images over cell phones was when a local cheerleader up river sent naked pictures of herself to her boyfriend, who then sent them to all his buddies.
I never found out what happened to that young girl or her boyfriend. I know he was 18 and she was under age, and I thought at the time he should charged with some sort of child porn rap.
With two Wheeling arrests, sexting is out in the open, and it's going to get worse before it gets better.
Wheeling Police Chief Kevin Gessler lists three tips for kids -- to keep them safe and help law enforcement officers nab the dirty perps. I'm going to repeat them here, followed by my personal comments:
1. Do not reply.
When a stranger sends you a text, under NO circumstances should you reply. If you ignore them, chances are they will stop. They like the feedback and want interaction to take place so they can "groom" the child. Note to teen girls: I know it seems fun and naughty and thrilling at first. But this is NOT the time for flirting!
2. Tell a mom or dad.
It doesn't even have to be YOUR mom or dad. Tell a responsible adult. Note to adults: Do not get mad at -- or ridicule -- your son or daughter for telling you about this. Act immediately by calling the cops and reporting it.
3. Save the message or image.
This is a toughy. The cops want it for evidence, but you don't want the porn on your kid's phone. Unless someone out there has a better idea, I say confiscate the phone until the police have what they need. I mean, you can't have your kid showing the image to his friends in the cafeteria.
Final note to parents: I understand why children have cell phones in this day and age. Age 11, however, seems young to me -- that's how old one of the two recent victims was. Nonetheless, if there's a way to block your child from receiving messages or calls from people whose names aren't in their address book, I say do it. If there isn't a way to do that, there should be. It won't solve the problem entirely, of course, but it could keep inappropriate content and callers from reaching your child.
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