I’m totally not hating on the fact that a tablet or cellphone screen can get my kids to leave me alone for a few minutes. I mean, come on, let’s be honest, we need our space (and a hot second to wash the dishes) right? And anyways, my 13 year old can’t get into much trouble online, right? Wrong. The truth is that the new generation of online sexual predator looks a lot like your kid. And as cool and trendy as social media is, you have to question whether it is creating a criminal right under your roof. (Perhaps one who is probably unaware of just how much trouble their actions can get them in.) Which brings me to this question: How smartphone smart is your child?
I sat through a very interesting talk by Social Media Law guru, Emma Sadleir (you may have heard her on 5FM yes) who shared that children has young as 11 years old are now sexting. With access to hardcore pornography (when the pop up banner innocently prompts “click here for fun”, guess what your 7 year old is going to do) our children are seeing things that are way beyond their maturity level and emotional capacity. And once the brain absorbs, it remembers.
Our kids are taking nude pics of themselves, you guys. Emma says that nudes are the latest currency amongst children (some as young as 9 years old) and these images are then sent through to friends and boyfriends/girlfriends under the guise that it will be deleted afterwards. What your little boy does not realize is that once it has been posted or sent, you can’t take it back! Kids are pretty savage now a days and if they find something amusing or shocking, the chances of it being kept under wraps is slim to none. Content follows your child. And guess what parents, it’s YOUR responsibility to make sure that they are aware of the permanence of the internet. Once its out, it’s out.
What we need to teach our children about the internet:
1. You are responsible for the content you create. And guess what, even if you like, retweet or share content, but did not create it, you are associating yourself with it and it can therefore be used against you in a court of law.
2. Sending and soliciting sexual images from an underaged child (even if you are underaged too) makes you a sexual predator! That’s right, it is illegal to get your buddy to send you a pic of his genitals as a joke. It is also illegal to share images of other people, in a compromised position, without their permission.
3. Your child’s school Code of Conduct applies to social media too, even if the images or content your child publishes does not have the school logo or name on it. In fact, the school can strip you of titles and even have you expelled, if they feel that you are bringing the school’s name to disrepute. Taking pics when you are doing something illegal or against the school’s code of conduct can be held against you.
4. Planning to go for a job interview one day? Your employer might Google you for your “online CV” – keep your social media profiles clean!
5. Bullying and cyberbulling is a criminal offence. Children over the age of 14 is considered to have full criminal capacity, in South Africa, which means they can receive jail time!
6. Make sure your location services are switched off! Never ever share sensitive information online!
7. If a friend or boyfriend/girlfriend asks for nudes you have the RIGHT to say NO. You don’t have to explain yourself to this person. If they refuse to accept no for an answer, tell someone.
8. If you are in a Whatsapp group where nudes or illegal behaviour is being shared, get out of the group immediately.
9. If you feel uncomfortable at any time, tell someone.
10. If you would not be comfortable sharing it on a huge billboard in the middle of the city, don’t share it on social media!
There is so much to share on this topic. I will be continuing the conversation in a few days, but for now, please use this information to make sure that your child is cyber smart. The more you look after your child’s privacy, the more privacy they will have to look after.
Check out more about Emma on The Digital Law Co website.