Category Archive: Internet Safety


dangerous phone apps

Parents, are you aware of Spotafriend, Yellow and Omegle? A recent article in the San Diego Union Tribune newspaper in November 2017 quotes representatives from the San Diego-based Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which is part of over 60 regional task forces across the country that focus on investigating Internet crimes against children. Spotafriend and Yellow are apps that are marketed to teens and are potentially dangerous according to law enforcement officials. Omegle isn’t an app but a website that can be accessed on mobile devices, “A chat room of sorts.” Investigators warn that adults on teen apps use various ploys to lure their victims. “Most of the apps, experts say, lack effective security measures to keep predators away.” “It is not uncommon for victims to be 11 or 12 years old, with the youngest being around 8 or 9 years old.” “As for the victims, boys and girls are represented fairly evenly in the cases they have investigated.”

A sergeant on the task force is quoted as saying, “It’s on the parents. They’re giving their child a gateway into the world when they give them that phone or that tablet. The good, the bad, the ugly.” Parents have a limited time available to effectively parent, guide and protect their minors. You need to know their friends, who they are communicating with, and keep them away from bad influences. Their minds are not fully developed while teenagers. They can be easily led astray and fall victim to the influences of others.

I am a former prosecutor and a defense attorney with over 47 years of legal experience. I do not want to have to represent your teenager who has sexted, has threatened to shoot someone at school, has bullied another person, has possessed and furnished child pornography, and has committed other crimes with their smartphones. I do not want one of your children to be a victim. A teenager viewing pornography is like pouring gasoline on a fire. This can lead to a minor teenager experimenting with sexual acts with other minor children.

Those of you who regularly read my blogs know I and other professionals have preached about the dangers of providing your teenagers with smartphones. You are a protective parent, not a bad parent, by denying your teenager a smartphone. There are phones available for telephone calls and texts that do not provide an entryway to the Internet. Computers, video games and other devices that permit your minor Internet access have to be closely monitored. Once they turn 18, they are adults. If they want to work and pay for cellular data, their smartphone, and the monthly plan that is their right to do so. You have done all you can to properly guide and protect them in their formative years.

Please review some of our prior blogs on this subject.  THE MOST DANGEROUS GIFT – A CELL PHONE  JUST SAY NO TO SMART PHONES FOR YOUR TEENAGERS 


Dangerous Apps On Your Teenager’s Internet Devices

Dangerous Apps On Your Teenager's Internet Devices

If you have provided or plan to provide your teenager with a Smartphone with internet access, I encourage you to install parental controls and on all internet accessible devices, i.e. Ipads, Ipods, and computers. Parental controls are helpful but not foolproof in protecting your child from harmful conduct., March 10, 2015, listed 10 Apps your teenager should not have on their internet devices. The information is from the website.

1. SNAPCHAT – Enables members to send photos and videos to other Snapchat users. Many teenagers are using Snapchat to sext one another. They are under the impression their photo will self destruct after a certain number of seconds. Snapchat knows sexting and the transmission of sexual images by minors are being sent via their App, but it does nothing to prevent this type of behavior. Adults are also using Snapchat to transmit sexual content. There are ways a user can capture the pictures and screen shots and save them. The FBI warns about the dangers of Snapchat for minors.

2. TINDER – Statistics show that more than 450 million Tinder profiles exist. The dating App has gained a lot of fame because it gives users access to dozens of profiles. The App uses GPS location to suggest matches living nearby. Tinder also features a rating system enabling members to give a grade to the profile of others. This rating system has become associated with cyber-bullying. The GPS locator poses certain risks especially if used for the wrong purposes by a non-family member.

3. WHISPER – This anonymous community enables its members to share posts and status updates without revealing their identity. It also has a chat feature. Many kids enjoy the anonymity of Whisper, which encourages them to share secrets and sensitive information with strangers. Ill-intentioned adults can use the App to access information that will potentially compromise the safety of a minor. Revealing too much may also become a reason for cyber-bullying. “Whisper on kids’ phones could potentially give them access to pornographic content and indecent posts by others. A lot of the content focuses on sex and drug abuse, which may have a detrimental impact on a teen or teen’s development.”

4. YIK YAK – This is another anonymous, Smartphone-based community. The comments posted by YikYak users are shared with 500 people living nearby (based on GPS localization). “Fox News recently published a report written by psychiatrist Keith Ablow. According to Dr. Ablow, YikYak is the most dangerous App that has ever come in existence. Classmates can easily become members of a virtual community, sharing mean comments and malicious remarks about each other. Cyper-bullying becomes an easy, convenient, and readily available option.”

5. POOF – Poof is an App created for the sole purpose of hiding other Apps on a Smartphone. A kid can use Poof to hide Snapchat or Whisper, essentially preventing parents from ever learning about their installation on the phone. Seeing the Poof App on your child’s phone should be an instant red flag, as it indicates that your child may be trying to hide something. Perhaps you recall news of a Colorado high school where many of the senior students were distributing pornography/child pornography between themselves and hiding it on their phones on an App behind what appeared to be a calculator.

6. CHATROULETTE AND OMEGLE – “When installed on kids’ mobile phones, these Apps will enable video chat with other users. There are no filters in terms of what could be revealed during the session. Many ChatRoulette users will pose nude in front of the camera and the random nature of the App will give your child no control over the communication.” “ChatRoulette conversations can be recorded. Anything your teenager does or says may come back to haunt them in the future. This record can be posted elsewhere and popularized easily through social media. Numerous children have become victims of cyber-bullying because of the mere existence of Apps like ChatRoulette and Omegle.”

7. BLENDR – It’s main premise is anonymity. Blendr enables just about anyone to communicate with another user of the App. This is one of the main reasons why the App is quite often utilized for sexting. Another danger stems from the fact that the GPS localization enables the users to communicate with other Blendr members located nearby. Having strangers aware of your child’s physical location is certainly far from safe.

8. ASK.FM – “A popular network that is mostly used by teens, allows members to ask each other questions. There are no restrictions in terms of topic or language used. is also commonly associated with cyber-bullying. There is no editorial guidelines and none of the content gets reviewed before it is published. As a result, the amount of abuse has been growing rapidly. doesn’t enable its members to protect their privacy in any way. There are opportunities for blocking other users of the App. The blocked users, however, can still access and view content.”

9. VINE – “The App enables the creation of short videos, but many of these may have pornographic nature. According to the official terms and conditions, Vine has a 17+ restriction. However, it’s very easy for teenagers to get around the limitation. Apart from being exposed to inappropriate content, teens have the chance to upload indecent videos. Getting such content deleted from the web is an impossible task.”

10, KIK – “This is yet another free texting alternative enabling communications via text messages and images. This App can make it easy for your child to talk to strangers. Kik is supposed to come with an age restriction but taking a single look at its App Store page reveals a completely different truth. Many of the reviews (which sound like profiles on a hookup website) are written by individuals under the age of 13.”

11.  TELEGRAM – This App was not listed by PlanetGreenRecycle.  The App is very similar to Snapchat.  You send a message and the message will disappear after a certain amount of time like Snapchat.


Texting Codes-Do You Know What They Mean?

Texting codes translated

The BBC App recently posted codes teenagers use to disguise their phone and online messages. The following is a quick guide to some of the texting codes teenagers are using these days:

WYRN: What’s your real name?
HAK: Hugs and kisses
ASL: Age, sex and location
WTTP: Want to trade pictures?
53X: Sex
CU46: See you for sex
NIFOC: Naked in front of computer
PAL: Parents are listening
KPC: Keeping parents clueless
PRON: Porn
ZERG: To gang up on someone
RU/18: Are you over 18?
BROKEN: Hungover
LMIRL: Let’s meet in real life

Please review some of my prior blogs regarding Smartphones. We strongly encourage parents to delay providing Smartphones with internet connectivity to their teenagers until they graduate from high school. A friend of mine told me her way of managing this was to tell her two sons that should they wish data for their phones they could get jobs and pay for it. It worked with great success.


Learn how to keep your children safe on smartphones. Do they really need snapchat?

A 16-year-old male student in Plano, TX, wrote his Snapchat user name on top of an algebra test. His 23-year-old female teacher replied using Snapchat. Their relationship developed into exchanging nude pictures of each other and sexual intercourse on several occasions. The first sexual liaison with the student took place when the teacher’s fiancé was away for the weekend. She explained she intended to break off her relationship with her fiancé. She told the police she knew the relationship with her student was wrong but it felt right at the time. The teacher resigned from the school district and is facing serious criminal charges.

Adults, whether they are teachers, coaches, youth ministers, scout leaders, or a Big Brother/Sister, who socialize with minors can become sexually attracted to them. The minors feel special and will participate in sexual acts with the adult. This behavior will continue to take place until the minor eventually discloses the relationship.

Would this destructive behavior between the teacher and student have taken place without the communication on Snapchat? Most probably not. Adults and teenagers foolishly think they can secretly communicate and exchange nude or inappropriate pictures without consequences.

Apps like Snapchat can be very destructive. Do not permit your minor/s to have Snapchat on their phone. I believe a large number of minors are using Snapchat and other Apps like it to exchange nude and/or inappropriate photographs. Even adults should not have Snapchat on their phone. This type of secretive communication behavior can lead to unforeseen, destructive consequences.

See my previous blog entitled Female Teachers Having Sex With Students.



A minor sends on a computer sexually explicit images of herself/himself to your teenager at their request. Your teenager is now in possession of child pornography on their computer. If your teenager used a P2P, peer to peer, internet program to send and receive this material, it can be easily identified remotely by law enforcement. Federal and local law enforcement agencies use software on the RoundUp website to seek out child pornography on peer to peer sites. Once located, they can obtain the IP address of the computer containing the pornography, identify where it is located, get a search warrant, and before you know it law enforcement is knocking on your door demanding you grant them access to search all your computers. If child pornography is found, all of your computers will be taken by law enforcement for examination for child pornography.

In a recent case a young man used his mother’s computer to obtain child pornography using a P2P network called eDonkey. This was accessed through a program called eMule. There are measures one can allegedly take to prevent shared users from accessing files on your P2P site you do not want to share. Unfortunately those measures do not always work, or only partially work, or by the time you transfer or want to make the file unavailable it is too late. This young man argued the police violated his Fourth Amendment rights by an unlawful search and seizure. The court ruled the police did not violate his rights as they did not violate any reasonable expectation of privacy because a peer-to-peer site allows others to access your site. The police discovered over 200 videos and images of child pornography. He was viewing child pornography one to two hours a day. He received a sentence of 15 years, 8 months in prison.

The names of P2P sites frequently change. Some of the older more popular sites such as LimeWire, Napster, Bearshare, Frostwire and the like have been shut down by the U.S. Government. New peer-to-peer sites spring up all the time. Ares Galaxy, BitTorrent, Gnutella, Morpheus, Pando, and Tor are a few of the peer-to-peer file-sharing programs.

Lives, families, future hopes and aspirations of families can be quickly destroyed by accessing and possessing child pornography. Access to child pornography is readily available over the internet to all who search for it. Peer-to-peer networks have become the main trading platform for child pornography amongst users. A 2012 study showed law enforcement arrests involving child pornography had increased from 4% in 2000 to 61% in 2009. There are no free passes for adults or juveniles when dealing with this subject matter. Parents must be very observant as to what your kids are accessing on their computers and sharing on their phones. You have to discuss with your children, at a very early age, not to share, access, or view child pornography.


In Fresno a 15-year-old female freshman student was arrested for attacking a substitute teacher who took her cell phone away during class. She swore at and punched the teacher.

Just say no to giving your teen a smart phone. JuvenileLawCenter.comThe teacher walked out of the classroom and the student followed him and continued to punch him and to scratch his face. The teacher had asked several students fidgeting with their cells phone to put them away. This type of incident of students assaulting and battering their teachers when their cell phones are confiscated has been repeated numerous times in classrooms throughout the country.

Parents taking away smart phones from their teenagers has led to an increase in bullying by teenagers against their parents. Middle school girls and older girls are sexting pictures of themselves to boys. The boys are using their smart phones to pass the pictures along to their friends and sometimes to post them on social media sites. Boys are constantly using their smart phones to access pornography. You can see plenty of adult sexual behavior on social media sites. Viewing pornography significantly contributes to teenagers wanting to experiment sexually. Quite often they turn to younger siblings or children to “see what it is like.” This usually leads to very serious sexual charges being filed against them in Juvenile Court or later in adult court if not disclosed timely. These types of behaviors are not restricted to “problem kids.” Teenagers are using the smart phones to post threats on social media sites to other students, their schools, to teachers and others. In several BBC apps on this subject, it’s been reported that the pressure for the “perfect online life” is being blamed for a nation of “deeply unhappy” young teenagers. Bullying and self-harm are featured prominently. One 13-year-old told a counselor, “I hate myself. When I look at other girls online posting photos of themselves it makes me feel really worthless and ugly. I’m struggling to cope with these feelings and stay in my bedroom most of the time.” A 12-year-old said: “I feel like crying all the time. I’m constantly worried about what other people are thinking of me and it’s really getting me down.” The pressure to keep up with friends and have the perfect life online is adding to the sadness that many young people feel on a daily basis.

Another BBC blog, “Some Parents Say ‘No’ to Phones”, cites a study by Pew Research Center. Of 1,000 teens surveyed, 92% of teens go online daily and 24% say they are online “almost constantly.” The lead author Amanda Lenhart reports, “It’s very easy to feel as though you are nearly constantly online when you have a buzzing, ringing, music-playing connective device in your pocket 15 or more hours a day.”

Some parents have a philosophy of “the best of everything for my kid.” I can almost guarantee you if you have that philosophy the chances of your teenager growing up to be an “affluenza” type teenager are great. That is a teenager who basically controls their parents and gets to do whatever they want. Be a parent. It is not your job to be your teenager’s buddy. There is nothing wrong with providing your teenager with a phone that can send and receive phone calls and texts. Just not a smart phone. A school computer or the family computer at home is available if they need to access the internet. The last thing they need at school or other places is a smart phone. Even if your teenager has a job and can themselves afford a smart phone, do not allow it unless they are doing well at school both with their grades and their behavior. A time will come when they are mature enough, doing very well both at school and at home, when a smart phone will be appropriate.

I strongly recommend you err on the side of caution. If your teenager gets a smart phone and you are paying for it, demand free access to review their texts and social media websites. Once they leave home, you hope you did a great job in parenting and guiding your children as they mature and develop into the good citizens you expect them to be. Please review our previous blog “The Most Dangerous Gift–A Cell Phone”. That blog was written by a teacher of 23 years and a mother of 8.


Laws for Minors to Erase Internet Content.

California has adopted the Privacy Rights for California Minors in a Digital World. The laws are codified in California Business and Code sections 22850-22582. A recent article on May 5, 2015, by Eric Ball with the law firm of Fenwick & West in the Los Angeles Daily Journal, sets forth the details and questions regarding the law. The law requires web and mobile app operators to permit anyone under 18 with the ability to remove or request removal of the content that the minor posted on the web site or mobile app. They are also to give notice and clear instructions on how to do so. Further, they must give notice that their removal may not remove all traces of such posting.

As long as the operator removes the original content by making it invisible, it satisfies the law. If the content has been copied by third parties and made it available elsewhere on the web, the operators are not responsible for that content. Operators may not have to comply with the removal if federal or state law requires maintenance of the content. If a third party, other than the minor, stored the content they have no control over that. The minor must follow the instructions provided by the operator for removal.

Eric Ball sets forth concerns with the law: 1. When can a minor request removal? Must they still be a minor?; 2. Who can request removal? Only “registered users” can take advantage of the law; and 3. Does this apply to parties outside of California?

On the issue of when can a minor request removal of harmful content a natural reading of the law would give the minor the right to request removal when they are a minor. This does not make a lot of sense since a minor may not realize how harmful the internet content is and how it impacts searching for jobs and background checks when they are a minor.

Eric Ball mentions that some of the commerce clause issues may be resolved by an amendment to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). United States Senator Robert Menendez introduced Senate Bill 547 which would amend COPPA to include notice and takedown provisions similar to California’s Eraser Law. On February 24, 2015, the bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. He points out that many posts, comments and pictures are often re-posted by others. Further, many web sites permit their material to be archived by services like the Internet Archive. The law does not apply to third party posts or third party storers of the information.

Recently in a Dutch court a lady sued Facebook to request the identity of someone who posted a revenge-porn video clip taken in 2011 but posted on Facebook in January 2015.  The offender soon thereafter deleted their account and the video.  Facebook replied their policy is to delete user data 90 days after an account closure and they no longer could identify the account.

The best protection is for your minor not to post embarrassing photos, comments, and/or posts they would not want someone to later view. Further, it would be wise to look at social media sites where your minor may have posted harmful posts and/or pictures and request removal while they are still a minor. This is at least a start for minors to try and erase from the Internet photos, posts, and articles they may not want future employers to see.



A 76-year old man took his computer into CompUSA for repair. Technicians discovered folders and subfolders with suspected child pornography. The technicians called the police. The police requested the technician show them the thumbnail images they observed. The images depicted obvious sexual activity between adults and children. The police obtained search warrants for the residence, office and two vehicles. After his arrest, his estranged wife called the police and told them the man had a home office at their shared residence and she had found items on it which she believed to contain child pornography. With her consent, the police secured the computer, some DVDs, and other items from this home office.

The defendant filed motions to suppress the warrantless search of his computer at CompUSA. The court denied the motion. He had voluntarily turned over his computer for repair. The Appellate Court ruled, “(t)he Fourth Amendment proscriptions on searches and seizures are inapplicable to private action…the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit governmental use of the now non-private information.” The defense further argued that the detectives needed a warrant to ask the technician to enlarge the thumbnail images. The court said this was irrelevant since the technician had viewed these images already and any expectation of privacy was extinguished. The defense further argued the estranged wife had neither actual nor apparent authority to consent to a search of the defendant’s office in their home. The facts were that the estranged wife had common authority over the house, including the home office. She could consent and allow the police to search.

The federal court sentenced the defendant to 8 years (96 months) in federal custody. He suffered from diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, thyroid disease, and kidney disease. He was taking approximately 22 medications daily. The court rejected the defendant’s request to a lifetime of supervised release, home confinement, and community service. He also requested to pay $100,000 in restitution.

This man had turned to viewing pornography for his sexual stimulation. In the course of it, he viewed a lot of child pornography. See our blog on how a lapse of judgment can cause some serious consequences. Lessons to be learned:

1. Do not view any child pornography–no matter how curious you are or fake you think it is. Dire consequences will follow.
2. Even if you delete something you have viewed, it is still on your hard drive in a folder
or subfolder. The police, computer technician, and other tech savvy person can bring up anything still stored on your hard drive.
3. Do not possess anything illegal. If you think there is something illegal on your computer, get a new hard drive or a new computer. Make sure you don’t put something illegal on it in the future.
4. If you have viewed suspected child pornography, do not take your computer into a repair store. Technicians will report you to the police if they see suspected child pornography.

The Case Against Social Media

social media buttons

The revolution in digital technology and social media has been compared to the invention of the printing press in terms of how this development has changed the way people communicate ideas and information.  This technology is so pervasive in our lives that imagining the days before Facebook, Twitter, iPhones, and iPods is like imaging the dark ages of black and white television.  Everyone now seems to have these devices and they appear to be constantly using them.  They are fun and they put us in constant contact, but it is important to consider whether these devices and the culture they have fostered have actually improved our lives or are they just an expensive distraction?

Stanford Professor James P.Steyer’s book, Talking Back to Facebook, discusses the proliferation of social media and its effect on young people.  In this book Mr. Steyer examines the very real problems associated with our ever-increasing fascination with social media, which include distraction, addiction (compulsive behavior), loss of innocence, and surrender of privacy.

In young people today there is intense social pressure to be constantly connected via the social media networks like Facebook.  This obsession creates its own sub-culture that dominates young people’s time and shapes their decision making and their identities.  The social pressure to create popular public personas and the accompanying compulsive urge to constantly monitor and update one’s profile lures young people into a trap where errors of judgment are not easily erased.  This phenomenon also conditions young people to become shallow poseurs who stockpile “friends” as a means of validating the faux personas that they manufacture and post.

Of course, healthy use of social media websites has many advantages.  People can almost effortlessly stay in contact with friends and family.  However, many young people lack the maturity to use social media sites like Facebook responsibly.  For them Facebook becomes a fantasy world of impersonal interactions, a virtual world that substitutes faux friendships and fabricated identities for the real thing.  Authenticity and sincerity are too readily and easily sacrificed in the pursuit of attention and popularity, as young people internalize the core tenets of our celebrity culture.

It is not surprising that numerous studies have confirmed that young people who spend excessive amounts of time on Facebook and other social media sites develop a variety of cognitive and emotional problems.  The tremendous rise in ADD is not merely coincidence.  Considering the fact that young people today are, from a very young age, bombarded with all sorts of distracting, time-wasting digital toys to alleviate their boredom, it follows that many fail to develop the sort of sustained attention necessary to excel academically.  Who has time to read a book or write a sentence, much less engage any sort of critical, rational thinking when you are constantly busy punching buttons on your Ipod, watching the latest viral Youtube video, or keeping pace with the latest celebrity update on Twitter?  It’s not surprising that the latest SAT reading scores for the class of 2012 hit a four-decade low, alarming experts. Young people today are generally becoming more narcissistic, distracted, impulsive, and bored, and it’s no accident.  The advent of this new technology and the pervasive social pressure to be constantly connected are conditioning them to be exactly that way. The infatuation with digital technology and social media is fostering a generation that is compulsively seeking stimulation and distraction to stave off the ever-present boredom that permeates their lives.

This phenomenon can be explained by the ways in which technology has come to rule their lives.  In a sense it is much like those science fiction stories where the machines have taken over, although in a subtle, sleight of hand way.  Essentially young people are just too distracted by all the forms of competing stimulation that their neurological and cognitive development is impeded.  As a professor, Steyer observes firsthand the destructive effects that the proliferation of digital media has had on his student’s attention spans, critical thinking, and ability to intelligently articulate their thoughts.  In terms of neurological development, it’s not that this technology is making kids dumber, it is merely distracting them so that they fail to invest the time necessary to develop the critical thinking skills that will enable them to excel in an increasingly competitive world.

The rise in digital technology has also taken an emotional toll and negatively impacted many young people’s ability to relate to themselves and others in a healthy way.  The huge social pressure to create and maintain an idealized image in line with what is condoned in the popular culture cult of celebrity has pushed many kids into a digital hall of mirrors.  Relationships and identities become distorted to the point that they lose their tether with reality.  This non-stop posing, hyper self-consciousness, and narcissism have negative implications for the development of healthy, mature identities.  The obsession with the digital culture of “cool” distracts kids from more important pursuits and undermines parents’ attempts to impart the coping skills and emotional stability necessary for their kids to succeed in life.

The constant connectivity has ironically caused young people to become increasingly detached and isolated.  Not only are they spending hours on Facebook, watching YouTube videos, and sending endless, mindless text messages, they are also wasting hour upon hour gaming.

Increasingly sophisticated, and some might say addictive, video games are also usurping young people’s attention and keeping them from more productive investment of their most valuable resource, their time.  In a phenomenon known as pathological gaming, many kids will compulsively spend hours transfixed in front of the TV or computer screen playing video games until their eyes are fried and their thumbs are prematurely arthritic.  Immersion in these virtual worlds, where the player acts out his/her athletic or violent fantasies, depending on the game, results in an emotionally narcotizing experience that the player compulsively seeks.  Kids susceptible to anxiety or depression are often attracted to the emotionally numbing character of these video games as a means of escape from reality.  They seek refuge from an arbitrary and confusing reality in a fantasy world where they feel a safe degree of control.  Especially concerning are the increasingly realistic, ultraviolent games that fuel violent, destructive fantasies and condone anti-social behavior.  It cannot come as a surprise that a significant number of the perpetrators of school shootings spent hours obsessively playing violent video games that undoubtedly fueled and shaped their violent fantasy worlds before they spilled over into reality.

The compulsive use of this distraction technology and the digital dependency that it fosters has potentially serious neurological implications according to some experts.  The digital devices stimulate the impulse-driven lower brain, which is the deepest, most primitive part of the brain.  Kids fail to adequately stimulate and develop the prefrontal cortex, which is the center of the brain responsible for judgment, rational planning, and critical thinking.

The myth of multi-tasking has also been discounted, which parlays into Steyer’s position that kids today suffer from “mental brownout”.  Despite claims to the contrary, people cannot process two streams of information simultaneously and impaired cognitive functioning is the result when the brain is distracted with competing sources of information that simultaneously vie for attention.  A perfect example is the use of cell phones while driving, where people are literally driven to distraction and the results are often deadly.  This culture of boredom and the need for constant stimulation has grave consequences for all of us.

In fact the Wall Street Journal recently published an article that noted the significant increase in accidental injuries to children resulting from parent’s compulsive texting.  The article cited two noteworthy cases where parents, who were supposed to be supervising their young children, became so absorbed in their texting that they failed to notice that their children had fallen into pools and were drowning.  Considering how quickly young children can accidentally hurt themselves while playing, as they fail to appreciate inherent physical risks, a complete lapse of attention by the supervising adult can have devastating and sometimes even tragic effects.

It is also important to consider the privacy and intellectual property concerns implicated by our obsession with social media.  The bottom line is that Facebook and other social media sites are a business, and a very successful business at that.  In fact Facebook’s reported revenue in 2011 was $3.2 billion and the revenue figures for 2012 promise to be even more impressive after the IPO earlier in the year.  Where does all this money come from?  The users and their personal information, which is the commodity that is exploited by Facebook to the tune of a handsome profit considering they pay next to nothing for it.  By aggregating user’s personal data and tracking their behavior, great quantities of data can be accumulated.  The value of this data is that it can be used to predict consumer behavior and be exploited by virtue of behavioral marketing.  This faith in the value of personal data is what drives the tech industry and it is also exactly what is making the moguls of the new social media extremely wealthy. In their case information is not just power, its money.

In this collision between the public interest and self-interest it is not surprising what triumphs.  It is important to acknowledge that Facebook is not in the privacy protection business, which is evidenced by the absurd doublespeak of its founder Mark Zuckerberg who looks forward to a new world of “transparency, frictionless sharing, and evolving social norms.”  What exactly does this mean?  It means that we are being exploited for profit.  Essentially, on-line social media companies like Facebook are callously exploiting our intellectual property for profit.

So the teen brain on digital media might be like the image from those anti-drug television commercials from the earlier 90’s where an egg was dropped into a hot, greased frying pan with the burner turned up high.  But what’s the solution?  Obviously there is something to be said for putting down the I phone, turning off the video games, and cutting back on the time spent on Facebook, especially if these activities are interfering with one’s life.  The best solution is to use these technologies responsibly and in a mature, healthy manner that improves quality of life rather than detracting from it.  The other alternative is only using the technology that is actually necessary to function in the modern world and cutting out the toys that just fuel procrastination.  The key is having something better to do.


1.     Read “Talking Back to Facebook” by James P. Steyer.  He is a Stanford Professor and founder of Common Sense Media.  It is also worth checking out his website: for information and advice on intelligent use of digital social media.

2.     Online behavior has neurological consequences, especially in children whose brains are still developing.  “Limit the amount of time your kid spends in front of a screen.  This is just as essential for tots as they are for teens.”  Professor Steyer has suggestions for young children through teens as to what is appropriate.  “In your baby’s first years, you’re setting patterns and habits for the rest of childhood.”  It is so important you start your child off on the right path, don’t let them develop bad habits early on that will be a lifelong burden and potentially magnify until they get out of control.

3.     Be very selective as to what your kid can watch.  “Watch the shows, try out the games, and check out their ratings and age appropriateness at before you let your preschooler see or play them.”  Our founding partner did not have cable television in his home until his kids graduated from college.  His wife did not approve of what she saw on MTV and did not want her kids watching it and being immersed in that ridiculous culture of “cool”.  It is always important to remember how impressionable children are and how vulnerable they are to influence and suggestion.  It is equally prescient to note that most of popular culture that permeates TV, movies, and social media is driven by a multi-billion dollar marketing and advertising industry that is insidiously manipulative and only interested in shaping the minds of young consumers.

4.    “Don’t get your kid a cell phone until they are ready for high school.”  Recently in San Diego 12 middle-school students were found to be accessing pornography on their cell phones in the classroom.  Read our blogs about how pornography can lead to all sorts of terrible consequences for the offender and victim.  The cell phone must come with the agreement you as the parent can regularly review their text messages.  You can be held liable for the civil and criminal actions of your minors until they are 18.  Know what they are doing, who are their friends and be an active and diligent parent.

5.    A kid can use Facebook officially when they turn 13.  Professor Speyer recommends your kid be at least 15.  If you do allow your kid to get a Facebook account you must be able to access it regularly to see what is being posted.  We have many clients both boys and girls where postings on Facebook have led to threats to harm and kill and even to fights.  The consequences for those involved have been suspensions and/or expulsion from school.  It is also important to note that the actual postings on Facebook have been used in criminal and civil proceedings against the minors.  Read our blogs on bullying, teen sexting, and sex between minors.

This blog was written by David Kaufman an intern with our office awaiting his State Bar license.  Email us and tell us your comments.  If you would like us to do a blog on a particular subject, please let us know.  Share experiences you may have had that could be helpful to others.   Visit our educational videos on YouTube or at or McGlinn & McGlinn, Attorneys at Law.

Teen Sexting is Illegal

Teen sexting is happening younger than you think. Juvenile Law.

Reports are being received that kids as young as the sixth grade are going into the bathrooms at school and taking photos of other kids on the toilet and texting them to their friends. Certainly by the 7th grade female students are being requested to send pictures of their bare breasts or other body parts to boys. The girls feel pressured that if they do not send a picture they will not be liked.

In a 2009 report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 15% of cell-owning teens ages 12-17 said they have received sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images of someone they know via text messaging on their cell phone. In the same article they report findings from focus groups asking teens their attitudes towards sexting. The attitudes varied between some who think it is “slutty” to potentially damaging or illegal. Others, especially boys, think it’s not a big deal. “We are not having sex; we are sexting.” “Most people are too shy to have sex. Sexting is not as bad.”

Sexting can have disastrous consequences. There have been cases reported in the media of kids killing themselves after someone posted or shared embarrassing sexual photos or videos about them. Jessica Logan, a high school girl in Ohio, sent nude pictures of herself to a boyfriend. When they broke up, he sent them to other high school girls. The girls harassed her, called her a slut and a whore. She was miserable and depressed, afraid to even go to school. She went on television to tell her story. Two months later she committed suicide. A minor locally was charged with posting on the internet a video of him and his then-girlfriend having sex. They had broken up, but he had kept the tape and later, with the urging of a friend, decided to upload the video to the internet. The video was taken down the next day but was viewed by some of the girl’s friends. He was prosecuted and convicted in court of felony conduct. He and his parents were also civilly sued by the girl.

A 21-year-old young man in Georgia was sentenced to ten years in jail for aggravated child molestation when he videotaped his having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl. He was 17 at the time. The Georgia Supreme Court ordered his release from prison after two years. The Georgia Legislature had, subsequent to the offense, made oral sex within three years of age of each other a misdemeanor.

California still treats oral sex between minors under the age of 18 as a felony, and possibly a misdemeanor depending on the circumstances, even if the minors are within three years of age of each other.

An 18-year old-young man was sexted naked pictures of herself by his girlfriend. When they broke up, he mass emailed the photos to get back at her. He was convicted as an adult of transmission of child pornography. He will have to register as a sex offender. He was kicked out of school. He cannot move in with his father because his father lives near a school.

Three teenage girls in a Pennsylvania high school took nude or semi-nude photos of themselves and shared them with male classmates via their cell phones. The girls, all 14 or 15 year-olds, faced charges of manufacturing, disseminating or possessing child pornography, while the boys who were 16 or 17 faced charges of possession.

Does sexting constitute child pornography?
The federal definition of child pornography constitutes visual depictions of actual children (minors under the age of 18) engaged in “sexually explicit conduct.” Clearly acts of intercourse, oral copulation, and masturbation would be included in that category.

    • What about the girl who takes and sends nude pictures of herself or her breasts?


    • What about the sixth grader who takes pictures of other minors going to the bathroom and then texts them to friends?


    • What happens to a minor who forwards or disseminates a nude picture of another without her knowledge?


    • What about minors who post such pictures on Facebook or other internet sites?


In New Jersey a 14-year-old girl was arrested on child pornography charges. It was reported that she posted 30 or so nude pictures of herself on her MySpace page. She was charged with possessing and distributing child pornography. Teenagers who take the nude pictures of themselves or have others do it for them are engaging in the production and distribution of nude or semi-nude pictures. It is a felony under both federal and state laws to possess or distribute images showing, among other things, “lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area” of persons under the age of 18.

I don’t see a criminal prosecution in Juvenile Court of the sixth grader going into a bathroom and taking a picture of another student on the toilet. I do see an irate parent finding out about the picture and demanding the offending student be suspended or expelled from school, be kept away from their child, and wanting to know if they can they sue the child and his parents for civil damages. Parents are liable for the intentional torts of their minors up to $37,000.00 for each tort. The seventh grader who sends a picture of her bare breasts or other private parts to another student is unlikely to be prosecuted in Juvenile Court. Could she be subject to suspension or expulsion from school? She would certainly be in violation of the school’s student disciplinary guidelines. If she is a cheerleader or student council member there is an excellent chance she would lose those positions. It is more than likely those pictures will eventually be passed around among other students and the girl taunted by fellow students. What about boys or girls who take videos of their sex acts with other minors and possess the videos, distribute them to others, or post them on the internet? That is child pornography and it is very likely, almost a certainty, that if discovered they will be prosecuted. There are also serious civil concerns about law suits against the offending minors and their parents.

For more of in-depth discussion of Teen Sexting review the excellent journal articles of Mary Graw Leary, Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law, Vol. 17:3, page 486, Spring edition 2010 and a working paper by John A. Humbach, Pace University School of Law, “Sexting” and the First Amendment, 9-12-2009. We are not sure who the cartoonist is but the cartoons appear in a piece by Kevin Moore titled “In Contempt.”

Teen Sexting Illegal