VASHON ISLAND, Wash. — These days, kids are asking for cell phones before they even hit middle school. For many families, it’s a way to stay in touch, but with it comes dangers, such as sexting.
“She didn’t care about her cell phone when we gave it to her several years ago and now it’s become a tool to connect with friends,” said Vashon Island parent Margie Butcher.
And now, Butcher works to protect her 13-year-old only-daughter from what technology may bring.
“As a parent it’s tempting to just say, well, if she doesn’t have it, there won’t be the issue. But then we’re not making her ready for life if we do that,” said Butcher.
So Butcher went to a symposium about sexting Wednesday night held by the Vashon Island School District.
“Adolescents and teens are impulsive and often times big picture is not in the forefront of their minds,” said mental health counselor Woody Pollock.
After several sexting cases on the island, the district called in sex educator Jo Langford. He says sexting is for adults, but for anyone under the age of 18 it is child pornography.
“It’s a felony to create child pornography. It’s a felony to distribute it over media lines, which is what they do when they use their phones, and then it’s also a felony to possess child pornography,” said Langford.
So he says tell your kids the serious consequences and start early.
“Making house rules and having preset expectations for kids around this stuff is half the battle,” said Langford.
Pollock says don’t think you know more than them or that your kids aren’t doing it.
“If they’re engaged in digital use, kids are ahead of their parents. Period,” said Pollock.
Langford says get educated, ask questions and be clear.
“We’re really trying to get ahead before there are issues and talk about some of the things that might come up,” said Butcher.
Langford says parents can star the sexting conversation right now.
Sexting, bullying, and relationship violence are all topics the Vashon Island School District has tackled during the month of October. To learn more about the work being done to connect parents with their kids on Vashon Island click here. To learn more about sexting and starting the conversation with your kids and to purchase books on sexting click here.