Vail Valley Voices: Parents, please help prevent sexting
Vail, CO, Colorado
All of us want the very best for our children and grandchildren. We want to make sure our kids have every opportunity to thrive and be successful. And there is not one of us who would fail to step between them and harm’s way.
However, for most of us who have been around the block a couple of times, it’s a challenge and sometimes mindboggling to deal with how advanced and savvy our kids have become when it comes to modern technology and communication.
My grandkids can upgrade and fine-tune our home computer in the blink of an eye. It gives me a headache just thinking how much more they know about modern technology and how to use it. And therein lies the problem.
Our kids are so comfortable with all the new communication devices that I sometimes think they do not totally understand the power they hold in their hands and how quickly — in the blink of an eye — the inappropriate use of a cell phone camera or a YouTube posting can change lives. The results can be long-term, devastating consequences to kids caught up in the moment.
The recent case of a “sexting” scandal at Chaparral High School in Parker sheds light on a growing problem that we in Eagle County are not immune to.
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Wikipedia defines sexting as “the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs, primarily between mobile phones.” It is the direct result of advances in communication technology that have created new forms of social interaction.
Think about it. This new way of communicating allows pictures and videos( which can be more explicit and have a greater impact than text) to be created without the use of traditional methods that would slow the process, such as photo printing. Photos can be created and shared instantly without time for reflection.
Additionally, once the material goes viral, neither the originator nor the subject of the photo or message has control over its distribution.
Forget for a minute the legal consequences attached to this issue. Consider the social and emotional impact on a teenage girl or guy, who for whatever reason — pushing the boundaries, peer acceptance, puppy love — participates in this kind of thing.
There are cases of teens being teased, hounded or shunned by friends and classmates to the point that they have left school, had emotional breakdowns and even taken their own life.
Our children have enough to deal with growing up in today’s world. They are looking for guidance and direction from us. They need our help, our experience, our knowledge of what is right and wrong, what is acceptable and what is not.
We must take an active role in ensuring our schoolchildren know the potential lasting consequences of sexting.
We at the Sheriff’s Office are taking the lead, along with the school district, in informing our students about the real consequences connected with this new phenomenon.
However, I believe it is squarely on the shoulders of every parent to have a frank and open conversation with their teenagers about the responsibilities associated with having the privilege of owning and using various types of modern communication devices.
Joe Hoy is the Eagle County sheriff.