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Friday, August 27, 2004

Self-published child porn

The term is chilling, but it's happening and parents need to know about it: teens sending their peers sexually explicit images of themselves and later finding them widely distributed on the Net. An example cited in the New York Times yesterday: an 8th-grade girl in the Bronx sending "a digital video of herself masturbating to a male classmate on whom she had a crush." The video "quickly appeared on a file-sharing network that teenagers use to trade music. Hundreds of New York private school students saw the video, in which the girl's face is clearly visible." But we all know this, right?: It doesn't stop with hundreds of local students. On file-sharing networks the video becomes "available to a worldwide audience of millions." It's downloaded onto those file-sharers' computer hard drives, to be shared whenever requested by other P2P network users around the world. It cannot be removed from the Net. Teens may already be aware of scary incidents like this. We hope. But it's unlikely they're telling their parents. So you heard it here and in the New York Times, if you read far enough down in Amy Harmon's thorough article on the growing cyber-bullying problem. Greater public awareness is needed, and experts are working on information for parents dealing with problems like this. I'll keep you posted on what's emerging. Meanwhile, if anyone you know has been confronted with situations like the ones in Amy's article, email me anytime. What they've learned may be helpful to other parents and teenagers.

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