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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Experts Warn Teens, Parents To Take Sexting Seriously

It takes a matter of seconds to pose, point, click and send. But teens are finding out the hard way that the consequences of sending sexually explicit photos via cell phones can be painful and permanent.

Experts say “sexting” is the latest collision between teenage sexuality and rapidly increasing communication technology, and that parents and teens should take it more seriously.

“What was kissing in the back of a bus 30 years ago is now sexting and distributing,” said Dr. Barbara Greene, a psychologist at South Shore Hospital. “It does not click that what they’re doing is destructive, let alone illegal.”

Greene said several recent cases show that teens fail to grasp the permanence of snapping a racy photo and sending it to a friend. They don’t consider the fact that the image may be shared with others.

“As technology races at an ever faster pace, the exposure increases,” Greene said. “The degree of violation is amplified.”

The term sexting made national headlines last month when Pennsylvania prosecutors sought child pornography charges against three teenage girls who sent text message photos of themselves wearing bras.

A federal judge blocked criminal charges against the teens, but the case was followed by other similar local and national incidents.

A study from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy reported in December that 20 percent of 653 teenagers polled had posted nude or seminude pictures of themselves at least once via computer or cell phone.

While concerns about teen sexuality are nothing new, experts say cell phone technology has changed the game. “Teenagers have always been highly-charged sexual beings,” said Mark Dunay, a clinical social worker at Harbor Counseling Associates in Plymouth. “But the whole notion of propriety and what’s OK and what isn’t has been blurred.”

“When you combine that with the natural inclination to forward and share information, you’re in trouble,” he said.

Critics of the decision to charge students in such cases have called the response an overreaction, citing laws that would force those convicted to register as sex offenders, sometimes for distributing pictures of themselves.
But Laurie Myers, president of Community Voices, a group aimed at educating the public and tightening sex offender laws, said it’s up to parents to explain that sexting is illegal.

“I doubt very much that any of the district attorneys in Massachusetts, unless there were serious issues, would try to pin those charges on a kid,” she said. “Someone needs to sit down and say, ‘Look, this is what could happen to you, and it will be out of our control.’”

Parents could curb some cases simply by monitoring cell phone use, Greene said.
“We’re giving them the cell phones when they still don’t have an understanding of the criminal and the social and emotional impact,” she said. “It’s like giving them the tools without the instruction book.”

Reprinted with permission of Kaitlin Keane from the Patriot Ledger
Patriot Ledger writer Kaitlin Keane may be reached at

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Walk To Remember

All alone, she walks on her way home from school just as she has done so many times before. It seems like just another day. She knows the neighborhood, the path to and from school, and even waves to a neighbor or two along the walk, but today’s walk is different. Today, she will be faced with a life changing encounter.

As the young girl continues on her way home, she is approached by a strange man in a vehicle. The man casually pulls up along side her and begins to coax her into his car. He tries to lure her with a gesture of friendship and offers the girl a ride home. He says he lives in the neighborhood and knows her dad. He acts as if he is just being helpful. But something about this unusual encounter just doesn’t feel “right.” As she begins to realize the man may not be who he says he is, she is faced with a life threatening decision. She must be sure to take the appropriate action in order to keep herself safe, and possibly alive.

But how does she know what the right thing to do is? She knows because she has been taught to recognize, avoid, and escape dangerous encounters with the help of Child Quest’s abduction prevention video, Milk Cartons: The Way Back Home. Not only does she know what to do, she knows where to go for help.

That is exactly what she did. Her quick actions not only recognized and foiled the attempted abduction, but her awareness and fast thinking also led to the apprehension of this potential abductor. “She did the right thing,” said Police Sgt. Dixon. She not only kept herself safe but she also helped protect other children from another child predator.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Abduction Prevention Video

Child Quest’s highly acclaimed, multi-award-winning educational video, "Milk Cartons: The Way Back Home", was created to help children understand what they can do to prevent child abduction. Written by Police Officer, Frank Swaringen, after interviewing sexual predators and child kidnappers about their luring methods, this video has been credited with preventing multiple child abductions.

"Milk Cartons" is designed to keep children’s interest while teaching them valuable skills. Through an engaging story line, live action, exciting animation and special effects, children learn what they can do to keep themselves safe in a non-frightening manner. The 28 minute video tells the story of Kevin, a young boy who has a day he'll never forget. A haunting stranger enters his life just before a class discussion on stranger abduction... a discussion he sleeps through. During his dream, the stranger, the school janitor, and the police officer leading the class discussion teach him some valuable lessons on how to stay safe. Animation, special effects, and live action all come together to bring the lessons home.

A guide for educators and parents is included with each video to help open the way for ongoing discussions with children about their safety. Click here to watch a preview and order your copy.

Missing Kid Screen Saver

“Missing Kid Saver” is a screensaver that displays important images and information about missing children. The software is an opt-in service and is available for free download at

Once downloaded, “Missing Kid Saver” will function like a normal screensaver, appearing when the computer is left idle after a set period of time. It will rotate images of missing children who are missing from or believed to be in the user’s region of the country. The images and information are automatically pulled and updated from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Chidlren's database.

Global Software Applications (GSA), a private software company based in Philipsburg, PA, developed the software.

Sign up today and join the thousands of people who are already using this free tool to help find missing children.

Missing Children Screensaver