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New tools help parents control sexting on child's cell phone

November 29, 2010|by Jay Scherder, KY3 News | jscherder@ky3.com

Sexting is sending inappropriate images of yourself or other people on your cellular telephone.  It has become all too common among kids, even as young as 12.  Surveys shows 20 percent of teenagers have admitted to sending or posting a sexually suggestive text message. 

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- You've heard about sexting in the news and maybe you've had a talk with your child about it.  At least one new cell phone application fights the problem of sexting to try to keep kids out of trouble.

"It's so easy, it's so fast and you can't take it back," said Sean Tierney with Mobile Media Guard.

When it comes to sending texts or pictures on a cell phone, once it's done, it's done.

"Hands down, the kids were more savvy with the phones than [parents] were," Tierney said, "Where does that leave parents?"

Almost 60 percent of teens have cell phones.  Of those, more than 20 percent admit to sending nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves.

"The consequences can be quite severe from sexting," Tierney said.

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What many don't realize is that they are breaking the law when they send or receive pictures of underage teens.

"Now you're a sex offender," Tierney said.  "Is that what any parent wants? No.  Is that what any child wants? No."

So what can parents do?

"Asking [parents] if they recognized the problem, astoundingly, yes.  (Asked) if they had tools to deal with it, astoundingly, no."

Applications are starting to emerge.  Some track down inappropriate text messages. Others are like Missouri-based Mobile Media Guard.  The program is installed on your child's phone.  Every picture he or she sends or receives is sent to a website for a parent to see.

"Kids are pretty tech savvy; they usually know what's running on their phones," Tierney said.

Of course, kids can always delete the application but not without consequences.

"What we can do is notify the parents, so they will know."

There have been cases in Texas and Pennsylvania, just to name a few, where teens got in trouble for sexting.  Some were even charged with child pornography.  It's definitely a serious issue but parents can finally fight technology with technology.  Most applications aren't free and have a yearly subscription.

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