Jamie Butow

Tuesday, Mar 19 2013 06:59 AM

JAMIE BUTOW: Job No. 1 for those with teens: Be the parent

By Jamie Butow

In August 2012 a 16-year-old girl was raped by classmates in Steubenville, Ohio.

On Sunday, two teens were convicted of rape and sentenced to several years in a juvenile correctional facility.

The teens were drinking and partying, celebrating the end of the summer. The victim was drunk, too inebriated to realize what was happening. She testified that she remembered drinking at the party and leaving with one of the defendants. The next thing she remembers is waking up naked on a couch in an unfamiliar house.

She testified she was "too embarrassed to ask what happened that night because I didn't remember."

But while she didn't know what happened to her that night, thousands of others did.

The assault was recorded on cellphone video, sent to friends and briefly posted on YouTube.

A number of teens were present and taking photographs, tweeting and retweeting them on their open and public social media accounts.

Rather than stand up and say, "stop it," they continued to share the information that humiliated and revictimized the girl through social media.

A cellphone video showing the defendants and others laughing about the attack was shown as evidence at the trial.

Several witnesses read the text messages they sent and received as part of their testimony -- many included adult language and graphic descriptions of what went on that night.

They were forced to read them, in open court, with their families and much of the world watching.

According to one report, the victim's mother addressed the defendants: "You were your own accuser, through the social media."

***

Do you know what's on your child's cellphone? What would you do if you found messages like this? Or video and photos?

What about Twitter, Facebook and YouTube? Are you linked to your non-adult children on those sites?

"How do I follow my kids on social media?" is absolutely the most common question I'm asked.

It's fairly easy to do, too.

Sign up and, as the parent, you tell them they are to accept your friend request on Facebook and your request to follow on other sites.

You have them give you their usernames and passwords to all those sites.

You tell them that's a condition of having a cellphone, laptop or tablet, and until they are an adult that's how it's going to be.

If they disagree, you take the gadgets away. You and I survived high school without all this stuff. They will, too.

People like to argue with my stance on that by asserting their children's right to privacy, and that taking away their phone would be cruel.

My reply to that is always the same: "Be the parent."

You aren't their friend, you are their parent. They aren't always going to like you. Yes, punishing kids is tough, but it's our job as parents. So be the parent.

Be the parent and check up on them and correct them if they are doing something wrong. Be the parent and protect them from the baddies out there in this world. Be the parent and keep them from becoming one of those baddies.

And always, ALWAYS remember that anything you text, any video and picture you take and send to anyone else is now viral. Because even if you send it to just one person, you can't control how many people they send it to. You send it once, and you've lost control.

More information on teens and sexting, and Internet safety can be found at KidsHealth.org.

In addition, all major service providers offer plans to locate family members' phones via GPS, and ways to set limits on when your kids can and can't use their phones. See your provider's website for details.

On the local front

As if to drive this point home, a local woman who was in my Levan Institute Social Media 101 class missed a week as she had to be out of town for work.

When she returned, we were discussing the photo-sharing site Instagram in class. She signed up right there in class and found her daughter's account.

It was there she saw photos of the unapproved party her daughter had at home while mom was out of town.

In an email she told me, "I love busting my kids like this!"

'First Look with Scott Cox'

Monday's inaugural show was a success by all accounts with the meter hitting the 4,000 views mark for those watching the broadcast online at bakersfield.com.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, and former Bakersfield Mayor Mary K. Shell were on the program.

"First Look with Scott Cox" airs 7-10 a.m. weekdays on NewsTalk 1180 KERN AM radio and on bakersfield.com.

For more on what McCarthy and Shell had to say, visit Bakersfield.com/FirstLook.

Social TV

The numbers for last week are in and in an upset, "Pretty Little Liars" topples the reign of "The Walking Dead" in the number of social media comments.

The "Liars" spring finale airs tonight. Last year's finale broke records with 645,000 tweets during the broadcast.

Follow along on Twitter at #PrettyLittleLiars and #PLL.

 

Jamie Butow is the community engagement coordinator for The Bakersfield.com Network. Email her at JButow@bakersfield.com. Follow her at Facebook.com/JamieButow2, and on Twitter@JamieButow.

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