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Sexting, Bullying, Revenge Porn & More: Talking to Your Kids about Online Safety


During the COVID-19 pandemic, kids of all ages are online more than ever before. They may be doing remote schooling, or simply using phones, tablets, and other devices to keep in touch with friends. This access is often necessary — but can present dangers that parents may not have considered.

Recently, a political news story highlighted one of the issues that many tweens and teens face: online bullying and revenge porn. A 19 year old candidate for state house admitted to engaging in these activities as a 14 year old. Among other forms of harassment, he obtained a nude photo of a 13 year old classmate and threatened to release it online if she did not send him more pictures. When she refused, he posted the picture online. Another woman stated that she attempted suicide due to his persistent bullying. Despite issuing an apology after these incidents came to light, other women have come forward with evidence that he has abused them within the past year, including harassing them via text.

This story may be unique in the world of politics — but online bullying, harassment, and revenge porn are far too common. Online or cyber bullying and harassment can take many forms, and may involve the use of social media, text messages, video games, or the internet. Revenge porn involves releasing a compromising picture of someone else without their consent.

How common are these forms of abuse? According to recent studies:

  • 47% of young people have received intimidating, nasty, or threatening messages online.

  • 68% of children currently experiencing a mental health problem reported cyberbullying within the past year.

  • 59% of American teens have experienced some form of cyberbullying.

  • Girls are much more likely than boys to be the victim of online bullying, with 40.6% of girls reporting the issue compared to 28.8% of boys.

  • Bullying and harassment most often occurs on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat.

  • 1 in 25 Americans — or about 10 million people — have been the victim of revenge porn.

This data shows that this is not an isolated problem. Millions of teens and tweens are victims of this type of abuse, which may be even more difficult to escape than other forms of bullying because of how connected our lives have become through the internet.


So what can you do to protect your kids? The first step is to have open and honest conversations about these topics. Make sure to explain to your child that:

  • They should never take and send an image of themselves because they were pressured.

  • While revenge porn is never the victim’s fault, the best way to prevent a picture getting into the wrong hands is to never take it or allow it to be taken.

  • Once you put something online or send it via text, you have no control over where it goes.

  • Never share, post or forward a sexual image. Not only could you be violating that person’s trust and privacy, it could also be a criminal offense.

  • Even though it may not seem like it, the person on the other side of the screen is real — and deserves to be treated with respect.

  • If someone is bullying or harassing you online, don’t engage. Leave the virtual space — and tell someone.

  • Never give out personal information online or use identifying details in your profile.

You should also set clear rules, limits and expectations for the use of social media, phones, and the internet. This may include letting your child know that you will be monitoring their online conversations, either yourself or through the use of an app or software. Make sure that they know that if they cannot use technology safely, then they may lose their access.


Most importantly, let your kids know that they can always come to you for help. A tween or teen may be embarrassed about being harassed online, their own response to the bullying, or the fact that they sent a sexual image or video of themselves to someone. Talk to them about how you will always be there to help them if anything happens, with a focus on their safety and well-being.


Blackburn Center offers a range of educational programs for students of all ages related to issues like sexting, appropriate internet behavior, and healthy relationships. You can review our program offerings on our website or reach out to us at 724-837-9540 to schedule a program — free of charge.

Learn More:

Training & Education

School Programs

Revenge Porn

Since 1976, Blackburn Center has been providing services to victims of domestic and sexual violence and other types of violence and crime in Westmoreland County, and presenting education programs across this community.  You can learn more about types of abuse, our services, or ways to get help if you are a victim of violence or crime.  All of our services are FREE and CONFIDENTIAL, and can be ANONYMOUS.

 

The official registration and financial information of Blackburn Center  may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll free within Pennsylvania, 1-800-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement.

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Blackburn Center

PO Box 398

Greensburg, PA 15601

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The information on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to take the place of professional services or medical or mental health treatment.

 

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