Pictures can go everywhere, easily, thanks to technology most Americans are walking around with every day: cellphones.
More than 100 students in Colorado school district are learning that the hard way as some face felony charges in a sexting ring. According to authorities, hundreds of nude photos of teenagers as young as 13 were exchanged.
The investigation uncovered a group of phone applications known as photo vaults. Also known as ghost apps, they appear to be regular applications, like a calculator, but can hide photos and videos behind passwords instead.
To check if your teenager has one downloaded to their phone search for “photo vault” or “picture locker” in their app store. If it says “next” to get to the next result, the application hasn’t been downloaded; if it says “open,” it’s already somewhere on their phone.
Child development expert Lina Acosta-Sandaal of The Nest Miami recommends being upfront about phone use from the start.
“When you hand them the phone for the first time you say, ‘I’m going to look through this phone whenever I want.'” She also tells parents to have conversations with them once they have the phones.
Mother Lisa Semoy agrees with this advice: with two connected teens, she says she understands how risky the world at adolescent fingertips can be. Just like the experts recommend, there’s clear phone rules in the Semoy household.
“I get lots of eye rolling and lots of ‘Mom, you’re so dramatic,'” she said. “When I get the rolled eyes, now I engage… ‘OK, let’s talk about it, why are you rolling your eyes?’ ‘You always think that because it’s in the news, we’re going to do it.’ I just want them to be aware of it.”
Even Semoy’s teenage daughter agrees that some of her mother’s rules can be useful… sometimes.