Keeping Kids Safe

On October 25th, the Manning School offered a resource to every middle school parent in all of Jeffco. A nice group showed up for the presentation but not nearly what the attendance should have been.

The topic was sexting.

Yes, middle school kids are doing it and good kids are doing it. Nice families, kids not from “troubled homes.” In fact, our middle school kids are the biggest offenders.

The presenters included our District Attorney, Pete Weir, and staff from their office, Alexis King, George Mumma, and Mike Harris. An extremely impressive and knowledgeable group of people attempting to keep our children safe.

From the brochure provided, “Young people fail to recognize the danger of sending intimate photos electronically. They may think that the photo they send will go no further than intended. But once an image is sent, it is beyond the control of the sender.”

We were told of a young girl who sent a picture to her boyfriend years ago. It wasn’t supposed to go anywhere. But they broke up and as kids do, someone got mad and sent that picture on to others. Then someone tagged her in it. This young girl is now an adult and despite an impressive education, cannot get a job. Because when employers search her name, that image from her youth is what Google decides to display.

Though the law was not intended for teens sending to teens but as a protection for our children, the way the law is written makes sexting a Class 3 Felony. The district attorney’s office attempted to pass legislation this past session to change this but it failed. Let’s all support them this year.

Middle schoolers are an interesting and wonderful group of our students. They are just beginning their transition into secondary education and they want independence but need so many supports. We are fortunate in Jeffco, as we continually state and the District Attorney agreed, that we have the Gold Standard of Safety for our students in Jeffco. We have the most amazing and dedicated safety team serving our students and the largest use and knowledge of the Safe2Tell Program in all of Colorado.

We are also fortunate to have staff at the District Attorney’s office who recognize the flaws in the laws and have created a program to educate our students who make these mistakes to protect them against becoming registered sex offenders.

Interestingly, the program for girls is one week longer than the program for boys who engage in sexting. The reason – working on self confidence. Nearly every female asked for reasons as to why they sent a sext stated that she wanted the boy to “like her/love her.” Every boy stated that he “just wanted naked pictures.”

As we are both mothers of daughters, we encourage all parents to talk to their daughters and build that self confidence in saying no and not needing to be liked or loved by participating in something you really don’t want to do.

Again, we need everyone to understand that these are not bad kids participating in sexting. They may very well be your neighbors, your babysitter, your child’s best friend, your niece and nephew, or even your own child. They’re middle schoolers and the technology today is just different than when we were kids.

We encourage every parent to visit www.cheezo.org to learn more about sexting and other internet dangers. Here’s a list of tip topics for parents, from Cheezo, that contain much more detail on their website:

  • EDUCATE YOURSELF, THEN YOUR CHILD
  • TEACH CHILDREN THE OBVIOUS RULES
  • INSTALL AN INTERNET FILTER OR FAMILY SAFETY SOFTWARE
  • KNOW THE DANGERS ASSOCIATED WITH SITES YOUR CHILDREN FREQUENT
  • TALK WITH YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT ENCOUNTERING PORNOGRAPHY
  • MANAGE YOUR CHILD’S TIME ON THE INTERNET/CELL PHONES
  • SET INTERNET GUIDELINES AND ENFORCE CONSEQUENCES IF THEY ARE NOT FOLLOWED
  • KEEP COMPUTERS OUT OF CHILDREN’S BEDROOMS
  • CREATE A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR CHILD THAT FOSTERS TRUST AND OPEN COMMUNICATION
  • IF YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND THE INTERNET, A WEBSITE OR A GAME SITE, ASK YOUR CHILD TO SHOW YOU
  • COMPROMISE – COMMUNICATE
  • VIDEO GAMES – GAME SITES

There’s an extreme amount of content on their website that EVERY parent will find useful and informative. Please go there and review it!

And have one more conversation with your child. Please talk about Safe2Tell. If they have a phone, have them download the app. In the event that they don’t feel comfortable telling you something, ask that they report it to Safe2Tell. It may be a picture they got, a friend who is suicidal, a bullying incident they witnessed, etc. It’s safe and it’s anonymous. Remember, reporting something can protect your own child and it’s okay to decide to report to Safe2Tell in the event you don’t have a parent to report to or they’re worried. Parents can also use Safe2Tell.