Anyone involved with Gen Y knows three things: they love their mobile phones, they are hyper-connected and they have no reservations about broadcasting their life across the social web. Very often they are lifestreaming without thinking about the consequences of their actions.
Take, for example, the mobile phone. They text, play games, take photos and oh yeah--they also occasionally use them to make a phone call. However, a recent investigative report by Emmett Miller and KTLA News found "a growing number of teens are messaging naked photos of themselves to their friends. Not only could it ruin their reputation, but it could land them in legal trouble."
One girl talked about how a guy at her school had a fight with his girlfriend and, in an act of revenge, blasted out nude photos he had taken of her to their classmates. The photos were forwarded on to more and more students, effectively making life at the high school unbearable to the point that she had to change schools.
Another student, commenting on the trend, said:
“I know in my high school that there was a a girl who took naked photos of herself and it went all through our school and it ruined her, 'cause everyone looks at her like a slut.”
But there are serious consequences beyond just being embarrassed or having to change schools. In his report, Miller interviews Detective Dan Morgan from the LA County Sheriff's Department who talked about the LEGAL implications:
He believes the cases are under-reported, but has still dealt with quite a few of them. Sometimes the cases involve teens who have sent pictures or video to other teens, but other times it's adults who are enticing teens to take photos of sexual situations. And that is where the law is clear. "
Most teens interviewed for this report had no idea that there were legal implications for sending or forwarding nude photos via mobile phone or the Internet. In fact, while most told Emmett that they "would only send nude photo's to their friends," they were completely oblivious that their friends might pass these photos along to other people.
This is an important topic that both parents and school officials should be talking about with teens. The stakes are even higher for a high school student who turns 18 and forwards a nude photograph of a boyfriend/girlfriend who is still a minor.
By doing so, they risk being charged for distribution of child pornography. Not to mention, if they are convicted, they face the loss of attending college, scholarships, and employment opportunities.
The important thing is for parents and school officials not to overreact. Banning mobile phones won't make these types of incidents go away. Teens will simply use another phone. Or have a friend take the pictures for them. The best approach is to sit down with your kids and calmly discuss the appropriate ways to use technology.
Think about it. You don't hand your kids the keys to the car without having them first go through a drivers education program where they learn the rules of the road. So why do we just hand them a mobile phone, computer or, for that matter, a social networking site and expect them to understand what behavior is and isn't acceptable?
As adults we need to also sit them down and outline how their so-called "personal information" can be sold to data brokers or passed around school by friends. We need to educate them on the consequences of lifestreaming and sharing too much information may have on their future.
Most importantly, we need to educate them that just because they delete that photo on their mobile phone doesn't mean that it isn't archived somewhere. Forever. After all, when it comes to the social web, your privacy is an illusion.
You can watch a video of Emmett Miller's entire report, The Naked Truth of a New Cell Phone Trend, by clicking here.