"Sexting": The Newest Reason for Parents to Monitor Computer Activity

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Pandora Corp. Co-Founder discusses the newest "shocking trend" among teenagers, and what parents can do to prevent their kids from endangering themselves...

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If the parent bought the phone and is paying the bill, it's as easy as telling your child to 'fork it over' so you can review content.

The newest shock to hit the parental system is the recent discovery of a new teenage trend. "Sexting" is the term used to describe the act of teenagers sending naked photos of themselves to significant others, friends, and sometimes casual acquaintances, via cell phone text messaging. These messages are sent, received and forwarded on a daily basis across the nation, and parents are just now finding out.

"Thanks to a few kids who have recently been caught, this new and dangerous phenomenon has come to light for parents," says Jamie Leasure, co-founder of Pandora Corp., makers of PC Pandora computer monitoring software, a tool designed to help parents keep kids safe online.

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy recently released results of a study completed in the fall of 2008. Of the 653 teens surveyed, 20-percent admitted to electronically sending or posting online nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves.

Another statistic shows that 39-percent of teens are sending sexually suggestive electronic text-based messages to each other. While the latter may seem like the current form of flirting, once images are involved, in the eyes of the law it becomes a form of child pornography.

"When a teenager takes a naked photo of themselves with a camera phone, it could be considered an issue of personal morals and values. But what teens don't realize is that once that picture finds its way to the Internet, it becomes an issue of personal safety," says Leasure. "That's aside from the bottom line fact that taking the picture and sending it, via Internet or cell phone, is a serious legal matter."

It doesn't matter if it's your child or not, if there are pictures of naked minors on your computer, you should be very concerned. If your child is receiving, forwarding, or - worse - producing and distributing nude pictures of themselves, peers or friends, there can be serious legal consequences. Already, charges have been brought upon teens in several states across the country. Leasure says this is just one more reason parents need to get serious and start monitoring their child's computer and Internet activity.

"Parents need to be aware of how their kids are using the technology they are placing in their hands. It's as simple as that."

And that's were PC Pandora comes in. PC Pandora is computer monitoring software that acts like a DVR and records all activity on your computer. With sequential snapshots of everything that happens on the screen, parents are able to effectively play back everything and anything their child does both on and offline. Further details of activity are made available in text-based files. Parents can review transcripts of emails sent and received, and instant messenger chats, logs of websites visited, keystrokes, peer-2-peer files shared, and programs accessed, plus Internet search queries, webcam output and more. The IRIS feature will even send those text-based files right to a parent's email - invaluable for working moms and dads who can't always be home when the kids are online. PC Pandora also comes with blocks and filters to help parents implement usage rights and restrictions.

"If you have PC Pandora on your computer, you will know if your child is involved in Internet sexting, whether it's producing the material or simply passing it along," says Leasure. "This is the best thing you can do as a parent to help keep your kid safe from all of the Internet threats, including their own thoughtlessness."

To help detect if there are images on your teens phone, well, Leasure says that's easy: "If the parent bought the phone and is paying the bill, it's as easy as telling your child to 'fork it over' so you can review content."

Leasure says the combination of current popular culture, the rapid speed of developing technology, and the old faithful trait of teens not thinking before acting has caused this new threat.

"There is something to be said for the way that sex is portrayed in mainstream media and pop culture," explains Leasure. "We are a society that makes the idea 'sex sells' possible. At the same time, we are enjoying this explosion of new technology that makes high levels of communication between individuals possible with a few presses of just a couple of buttons. When we give our kids this new technology, we sometimes forget that teens are teens and they are going to do a lot of questionable things as they grow up. That's why as parents we need to be aware and know how our kids are using the technology we give them and how they are representing themselves in the new digital world."

It sounds easy, but as every parent knows, putting even the simplest idea into practice can be very hard. Fortunately, there are tools like PC Pandora that make 21st century parenting easier to manage. Parents should also consider this: the recent study revealed that 75% of teens acknowledge that sending these messages "can have serious negative consequences," but they are doing it anyway. Maybe they do need the extra parental enforcement.

For more information on how you can keep your kids safe online and find out if they are partaking in sexting, visit http://www.pcpandora.com. In spring 2009, Pandora Corp. will release PC Pandora 6.0, which will incorporate Pandora LIVE, a web-based service that will allow parents to check content from anywhere through a secure server.

A 2008 survey of 653 teens (age 13-19) commissioned by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy to explore the habits of electronic activity found that:

· 20-percent of teens (1 in 5) say they have electronically sent/posted nude or seminude pictures or video of themselves; breakdown: 22-percent of teen girls, 18-percent of teen boys and 11-percent of 'young teens' (age 13-19).
· 39-percent of teens say they have sent sexually suggestive messages (text, email, IM) to another (37-percent of teen girls, 40-percent of teen boys); 48-percent of teens report having received such messages
· 71% of teen girls and 67% of teen guys who have sent or posted sexually suggestive content say they have sent/posted this content to a boyfriend/girlfriend; 21% of teen girls and 39% of teen boys say they have sent such content to someone they wanted to date or "hook up" with.
· 15% of teens who have sent or posted nude/seminude images of themselves say they have done so to someone they only knew online.
· 75% of teens and 71% of young adults say sending sexually suggestive content "can have serious negative consequences." Yet, 39% of teens and 59% of young adults have sent or posted sexually suggestive emails or text messages--and 20% of teens and 33% of young adults have sent/posted nude or semi-nude images of themselves.
· 38% of teen girls and 39% of teen boys say they have had sexually suggestive text messages or emails-- originally meant for someone else--shared with them; 25% of teen girls and 33% of teen boys say they have had nude or semi-nude images--originally meant for someone else--shared with them.

About PC Pandora: Pandora Corporation was formed with one goal - to help our customers monitor, control and protect their families and themselves online. First released in mid 2005, our PC Pandora computer monitoring software has been constantly upgraded to industry-leading specifications and has received accolades from users, reviewers and even school districts and law enforcement agencies, who use the program to help in the day-to-day supervision of the children and citizens they are charged with protecting. The company website devotes space to helping parents by providing them with 18 Tips to Safe Surfing and Pandora's Blog, where current news in the world of online safety is discussed regularly. PC Pandora has vaulted into a leadership position for parental control software by boasting a combination of features that are unparalleled in the monitoring industry. In 2008, Version 5.0 was released, again widening the spectrum of coverage and protection offered by the program. In addition, through the company's SAFE SCHOOLS program, schools and school districts can receive up to $100,000 worth of software to aid in protecting their students and their PCs. PC Pandora is also now available through the Pandora Corp. store at Amazon.com. Currently in version 5.2, the next release of PC Pandora will incorporate Pandora LIVE, a web-based service that will allow parents to check content from anywhere through a secure server.

Reporters and Producers: Looking to cover this topic? We are your technology solution component. Software is available to journalists for review and testing. Staff members are available for interviews. Let us help you show your audience how easy it can be to keep their kids safe.


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Ken Shallcross
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