How Our Kids Talk

by Jonathan Cadwell, LCDCI

In today’s age, our children have more ways to communicate with each other as well as with millions of people across the world. How are our children communicating? More children than ever have access to cell phones and the internet.

According to studies, a majority of today’s youth own cell phones. This includes 22% of children ages 6-9, 60% of children 10-14, and 84% of children between the ages of 15 and 18. What is the danger in this? Many parents do not monitor their children’s cell phone usage. This puts these children in danger of being bullied via their cell phones and makes them targets for sexual predators.

Children with cell phones are now vulnerable to a new type of bullying; cyberbullying. Cyberbullying occurs when someone uses electronic means, whether it be online, through a cell phone, to annoy, harass, intimidate, etc.., another person. This can include unwanted texts or instant messages sent to their phone. Other children utilize this type of bullying because it is instantaneous and the child does not have to be present to bully in this way.

A new fad for children with cell phones is sexting. Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photos electronically, primarily between cell phones. Sexting can have very severe consequences including having to register as a sex offender. How can this happen? If someone texts a picture of a minor, this is considered delivery of child pornography. If a person texts sexually explicit material to a minor, this can be seen as soliciting a minor.

The other way children communicate is via the internet. Sites from MySpace, FaceBook, Twitter, and web based email accounts make it easy for children to communicate with one another. Studies show that approximately 87% of teens age 12-17 use the internet. Fifty percent of young people have contributed content to the web. This includes 32% who have created their own personal web page or web site and other who have contributed blogs, photos, videos, music, stories, artwork, etc. Nearly 75% of teenagers aged 12-17 use instant messaging. Thirty eight percent read blogs while 19% of teens have their own blog.

This is a problem because yet again, parents are not monitoring what their children are doing. Social networking sites such as MySpace and FaceBook are grounds for sexual predators to prey on our children. Why is it so easy for these predators to find out children? Many children do not see the danger in posting personal information about themselves on the web. They think because they are at home they are protected. They don’t recognize that their actions online can harm themselves or others.

The bottom line is that parents need to be proactive to safeguard their children in today’s technological era. Parents need to monitor their children’s internet and cell phone usage. Many may think that this is a violation of their children’s privacy. Do not think this! By monitoring your child you may be saving them from great danger.

Jonathan Cadwell, LCDCI, CPS Investigator is a member of DFG’s Interagency Network and Public Education Committee.