Scared Straight Sexting Talk with Teens - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Scared Straight Sexting Talk with Teens

By Teri Okita – bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A warning for teens and tweens: your high-tech reputation could be just a few kilobytes away from ruin. "Sexting" - exchanging sexually-explicit photos, videos, or text messages - isn't "here today, gone tomorrow". It can last a lifetime. And one of Hawaii's leading cyber-safety experts shows students the dangers of private parts going public.

"Wake up, kids! What you do on-line will affect your future!" warns cyber-safety advocate and former Honolulu cop, Chris Duque.

Duque tells a classroom of Stevenson middle school students the true story of an eighth grade girl who sexted a naked photo of herself to her boyfriend. She got a text in return. "Then, the person says, "If you don't meet at Magic Island and do things to me, sexual things, I will put this on the internet."

That got a few nervous giggles from the group.

"Think that's funny? Now, we talk about a future, girl! You three girls, you think about that, that's funny? You really think that's funny? You know what? That boy did not send that text message!"

Turns out the boyfriend lost his phone, and she was actually communicating with a strange man. It's a "scared straight" lecture for the new millennium, and Duque holds nothing back.

"I talk about reputation," he tells me. "How it evolves from the middle school and how it will progress into college and into their professional life and when they raise their own families."

"Sextortion", as it's sometimes called, happens to boys, too, and sexting, on the whole, is affecting even younger kids. Duque says, "I know it's happening as early as fifth, fourth grade."

Seventh grader Lakota Kapua says she's been asked to send a naked picture of herself to a boy at school. "I say no because it's really bad, and it's a bad choice to do it, and I don't want to be that kind of girl."

But Lakota knows other girls who've been "high-tech flirts", and Duque says it's a challenge to convince naive, inexperienced teens and tweens to think before they act. His three simple rules to ask yourself: Who can see this? Assume it can reach everybody. How many people is "everybody"? Two billion (on the internet). How long will these images last? Forever.

And here are some more cyber-safety tips for teens: don't give out personal information such as your address, phone number, school, or family situation. Remember: not everyone is who they say they are on-line or in texts. Report any harassment and inappropriate or uncomfortable behavior by others, and keep in mind that service providers can disable your account if YOU violate rules.

One other thing: the Hawaii school system's "student code of conduct" considers sexting part of cyber-bullying. It's a class B offense - which could include suspension, depending on the circumstances.

Duque advises parents: save your money. Don't rely on technology to block and protect your kids. They'll figure out ways to outsmart you. Busy parents have to make time to talk to, check on, remind their children, again and again, about cyber predators. It's a new world.

"With the information technology, what we say now can reach two-billion people worldwide versus 30 years, 40 years ago, 50 years ago - what I said in Papakolea, you know, it's going to take some time before it gets to Kaneohe. By the time it gets to Kaneohe, it's going to be diluted somewhat," Duque says with a laugh.

Indeed, the coconut wireless has gone global, and life can change in an instant - just by pressing send.

For more information on cyber-safety, check out the Hawaii Internet Crimes Against Children task force website at http://hawaii.gov/ag/hicac/.

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