POLAND, Ohio (WYTV) – Kids can spend a lot of time on their phones, and sometimes, they’re not making the best choices when texting, snapping or posting.
Thursday, seventh- and eighth-grade students at Poland Middle School got a talk about sexting (sharing nude photos or sexually-oriented material via text messages) and some of the legal consequences.
James DeLucia, program coordinator at Mahoning County’s Juvenile Court, used ex-Subway spokesperson Jared Fogle as an example in his talk. Fogle was sentenced to almost 16 years in prison last year after pleading guilty to distributing and receiving child pornography.
DeLucia said kids can also get in trouble for sending nude pictures.
“By not only having those pictures, it’s a crime. Just possessing in general, whether he created them or she did for herself; if she created them, that’s a crime as a juvenile,” he said.
He also discussed how pictures can be leaked to other people and how it can lead to cyber bullying.
Administrators say although the students are young, it’s important to start talking about the subject early. They say students ages 12 to 14 years old often don’t realize the repercussions of their actions.
Poland’s middle and high schools have these presentations every year. Administrators say the middle schoolers are getting more mature, and a lot of it is due to technology.
“As they’re going through puberty, they’re starting to change. They’re deciding who they are and trying to grow an identity,” Guidance Counselor Mary Jo Lukatch said.
With apps like Snapchat, in which pictures are only available for seconds, sharing nude photos has become a bigger problem. Although the pictures are deleted, a person can screenshot the image, thereby having it forever.
“There are more sites that pop up daily that we’re not, even the law enforcement, we can’t keep track of,” said Steve Kent, a school resource officer at Poland Schools.
DeLucia said the easiest way for parents to control the apps and websites aren’t by just blocking them. He said it’s important to educate kids about what will happen if they get caught.
“The concept of my little one would never do this, it doesn’t really work anymore, especially when they’re committing crimes by choices they make and they don’t even realize it’s a crime,” he said.
Parent Heather Kollar said she believes Thursday’s presentation will be helpful to students.
“It’s nice to hear it from someone of authority, someone who knows, someone who can say, ‘Hey, you can get into big trouble. You can ruin your future career, your chances at college,'” she said.
The U.S. Department of Justice laid out a few tips for parents of high school students, regarding their use of the internet. The Department of Justice recommends to:
- Talk with your teens about what the can and cannot do online. Be reasonable and set reasonable expectations by remembering what it was like when you were their age.
- Be open with your teens and encourage them to come to you if they encounter a problem online. If they tell you about something they encountered, your first response should not be to blame them or take away their Internet privileges. Work with them to address the problem and do not be afraid to contact appropriate authorities – whether it is the school or law enforcement.
- Learn everything you can about the Internet. Ask your teens to show you their favorite sites.
- Make sure your children set their Facebook account (or similar social networking sites) to private. You may want to require them to make you a friend on Facebook.
- Talk with them about “sexting”. Tell them if they receive a “sext” they should delete it, and certainly never forward one. At best, it is mean and disrespectful. At worst, they could be committing a crime.
- Remind them that whatever they post on the Internet is there forever, even if they delete it, and can have negative consequences for college, job searches and their future.