‘Sexting' is not only about the technology

May 7, 2009 4:06pm

By Michael Kaiser, NCSA Executive Director
An article in today’s Washington Post about sexting  (sending sexually explicit photos by cell phone) accurately portrays the difficulties schools, law enforcement, and prosecutors have when new uses of technology don’t necessarily fit into laws and polices already on the books.  Often young people embrace technology and find new, and sometimes negative uses, before parents, schools, and the community have the opportunity to proactively respond.

One paragraph in the story particularly caught my attention:

Sexters are often "the good kids," police said, with strong grades, involved parents and no criminal history. Many send photos without grasping that they could be widely circulated or posted on the Internet in view of strangers, predators and potential colleges and employers.

It’s that last part that I actually think we can do something about. Young people in America should not grow up without a grasp of how the Internet works, the longevity of images and text in cyberspace, or the impact and ethical considerations of sending, receiving, or distributing explicit photos.

Sharing explicit photos most certainly did not start with the Internet. However, the Internet is an accelerator button that has few brakes and a memory that lasts forever. The responsibility of teaching young people about the safe and secure use of technology belongs to all of us—parents, teachers, uncles, aunts, grandparents, industry, and government.

Learning to use technology responsibly in a civil society is not even about the technology.  It is about learning the universal behaviors that are relevant, whether you are using a megaphone, email, social networking, texting or even just word of mouth.  Young people need to understand the consequences of behavior, appreciate the rights and feelings of others, and be aware of the lasting impact of their actions. By learning these life lessons young people will be prepared to safely and securely integrate every new technological bell and whistle, and harness the power of technology to enhance their lives.

SSO (stay safe online),