Take the “thousands of 10- to 14-year-old boys who chatted online with pretty brunette ‘Jenna’ [who] had no way of knowing that the person they sent their sexual images to was actually a 27-year-old man[.]” They’ll never know just where their images ended up.
Because while the story, as reported by Michelle Hunter of the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, ends with the successful arrest of a man behind a massive child pornography ring, the sexually explicit photos of these teen and tween boys are now forever “out there,” unrecoverable from wherever they may have been shared in Cyberspace.
Children, teens, and even young adults don’t have the sense of longevity or permanence that adults do, so it’s difficult for them to relate to the far-reaching effects of digital missteps made in youth until it’s too late. Which is why parental involvement is crucial.
It’s not the kind of thing any parent wants to think about, but teen sexual experimentation and development now includes the added curveball of possible exposure across the Web. Current technology demands that grown-ups stay one step ahead of the curve in order to educate their children and keep them safe. But how do you do that? Here are a few guideposts for parents:
Don’t wait to talk to your children until something happens, and don’t assume that they are too young, too smart, or too good to be victimized. The Internet, for all its advantages, makes children and teens easy targets. Parents have to do their part to prevent irreparable damage to their children’s futures.