SHenendehowa talk warns of 'sexting' dangers

"I worry about watering down the child pornography laws, because when we need them, we really need them," said Murphy. "If you have a smart DA and a smart police department, that won't happenIf you don't have a smart DA, you don't elect them again."

Shenendehowa Superintendent L. Oliver Robinson said that while the district has not suffered any major incidences of sexting mishaps, teachers and officials are well aware that students sometimes pass inappropriate material via cell phone, and they thought it best to collaborate with Murphy's office to get out in front of the issue.

"There was a clear indication to us that it could grow into something much more," Robinson said. "It's part of our modern day reality. With technology comes many new opportunities, but also challenges that we have to face as a school district."

Just as big a problem as sexting from phones is the information that teens put on the Internet about themselves. With social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook becoming increasingly popular, it is easier than ever for college admissions, employers and the police to pull up details on a person with just few keystrokes.

Photos of inappropriate behavior can bar a student from college or dismiss them from a job interview.

"That moment is captured by somebody you least expect," said Murphy. "Seven years later, that photo can come back to haunt you, and that's a really tough lesson to learn."

The solution to both the problem of sexting and social profiling is simple common sense, and sometimes that has to be passed on from parent to child.

"You control what photographs or what information gets sent out about yourself," advised Murphy.

While parents can sometimes feel helpless when it comes to the electronic world their children increasingly inhabit, with its own language and etiquette, Murphy stressed the importance of becoming involved in children's cellular and online habits.

Some tips:

Have passwords to your child's online networking sites handy. Without a password, it can take police hours to get the proper authorization to enter the account in an emergency.

Consider setting limits on phone and computer usage. Having all of a household's phones charge at night in one location is an example.

Talk to your children about their texting and online habits, and inspect their text message logs and Facebook or Myspace profiles.""

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