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Selfies and sexting: Are we our own paparazzi?

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Recent headlines about Instagram and Facebook censoring parents posting photos of breast feeding and of kids lifting shirts to show their bellies really makes one wonder: have we become our own paparazzi that the institutional monoliths of the cloud are calling us out for over exposing our own children?

And for adolescents, this question has more profound consequences as youth are by and large less equipped to recognize the long term consequences of sharing too much to too many and too soon. Every law enforcement officer I have spoken with says that sexting is more common than parents could ever realize and it makes one wonder in general is there a sense of privacy among our youth?

Officer Ryan Nottleson, with the Roseville Police Department, has spent five years on high school campuses. “Sexting happens all the time amongst both youth and adults,” he said. “I would encourage parents to be an active participant of their child’s life and remember they are a parent, not a friend.” This means that parents do not grant children privacy, but they respect it by monitoring cyber communications without sharing details inappropriately, commenting on everything and expressing personal opinion.

Parents who post pics of their children in precious private moments of sharing a belly button or their first big boy potty experience on the toilet may or may not be thinking about the privacy concerns of posting such images on public sites like Facebook and Instagram, which are actually adult swim. In any event, it is critical that our youth understand that self-restraint is critical, and Nottleson encourages parents to hold tweens and teens accountable for the images and thoughts they choose to share on-line.

Nottleson encourages parents to review the California penal codes 311.11 and 311.4 for child pornography which clearly call out any images that depict a minor child posing in a sexually explicit act, and for minor children who are trading such images among their own peers there is a possibility it could result in prosecution and registration as a sex offender. “Maintaining the balance of holding your kids accountable (discipline) while still loving and educating them is essential,” Nottleson said.

To read more tips about networked sexuality: Preparing your child for sex in the social network

For more about teaching your child to be a cyber-secure citizen, go to: A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media.

For tips on establishing cyber-safe house rules, go to: A Parent’s Guide to Cyber Citizenship

Check out apps for private storing and sharing of family photos:

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