Show and Tell can turn malicious very quickly, especially when teens and mobile phones are involved. The heightened use of smartphones and quick-share apps like Snapchat, and the frequency of taking, texting, and posting images and videos have created a whole new universe of real-time connection that most parents today couldn’t even dream of at that age. Our telephones were connected to a wall with a long, coiled cord, so there was no way to share any visuals with friends over the phone! And even if embarrassing photos were taken, they took several days to process via film development and then could be thrown away by the store manager or parents upon pick-up. Things were slow and online / mobile bullying and content-sharing weren’t even dreamed into existence.
Today, teens can access nearly anything in real time and sometimes even have access from the classroom. Online bullying, social media manipulation, and illegal photo/video capturing are not only available to them, but it’s also easy to accomplish. It has never been more important to talk to your teens about the risks associated with capturing inappropriate video and photo footage, especially when the subject has not given consent.
Recently, a story circulated about a local high school that involved two teens participating in inappropriate sexual activities in a bathroom. According to the rumor (I have no hard evidence on the topic), a third, unassociated party began capturing video footage of what was being overheard in the bathroom. This video was leaked and created a world of chaos, disciplinary action, and extreme embarrassment to the children and parents involved. The minute details don’t actually matter in the story because the point is this: anytime you photograph or video record minors you can be held liable for whatever outbreak the content causes. If there is sexual content, there are real legal ramifications for being involved in child pornography. If there are embarrassing moments, you can be held legally liable in civil court. If there is content at all on your phone (even if you are just a receiver), you can be responsible for taking, sharing, owning, or even being associated with such content.
It’s not enough to remind our teens to protect themselves from predators or strangers who could target them online and through social media and gaming apps. We need to constantly remind them of the extreme dangers that can be brought upon the subjects and the photographers involved when children are concerned and sharing of inappropriate content occurs.
While I don’t have legal advice or any affiliation with the incident, I do have a great deal of sympathy and compassion for the children who were involved. As a parent, I hope that I am ever-aware and I continuously have conversations with my children about phone safety and expectations. Everyone makes mistakes and teens make all types of bad choices. It hurts to know that a seemingly small lapse in judgment could have life-changing ramifications for all of the children involved. With access to technology comes a great deal of responsibility, and it’s important to remind our teens of all the good and bad that can come with smartphone access.