The South Florida community was unsettled this past February when reports surfaced that numerous nude photos of high school students had been posted online. Unfortunately this was not an isolated incident, and in fact this has become a widespread problem, with reports like that one popping up in communities large and small across the country.
Because so many cell phones also have camera and video options, and there are various mobile applications, such as Snapchat and Facebook poke, that encourage sending photos to friends, teens are increasingly at risk of having photos they never intended to share with others become public.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) and Falcon Cove Middle School hosted a Mobile Online Safety Forum on Wednesday evening to help raise awareness among teens about the implications of sharing explicit photos and texts and to raise awareness among parents about existing technology that has been exploited and share tips about how to talk to their children about best practices.
"Our children are growing up in an amazing world where via their smart phones the internet is everywhere that they are," said Rep. Wasserman Schultz. "We must make sure that we educate our children on how to make good decisions and be safe online. As our children cultivate their own virtual footprints, they must be mindful of their choices and the consequences those choices can have on their digital and real life reputations."
Rep. Wasserman Schultz was joined at the forum by several high-profile speakers, including best-selling author and parenting educator Rosalind Wiseman, whose book, Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence, was the basis of the film Mean Girls. Also speaking at the forum was Stephen Balkman, the founder and CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), an international nonprofit which works to make the online world safer for kids and their families.
From the Broward County State Attorney's Office, Stacy Honowitz talked about the importance of frank and open communication between parents and children about this important issue. Honowitz has been a supervisor in the Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Unit of the Stat Attorney's Office for the last 17 years and has prosecuted several high profile cases in south Florida. Representatives from Facebook, Comcast and AT&T were also on hand to talk about what their companies are doing to help keep parents informed and children and teenagers safe online.