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Friday, January 18, 2008

'Grooming' by phone too

Online safety news that appeals to fears is counter-productive, so I hope the US news media will approach cellphone safety more intelligently than they did predation on the Web. But, as with the Web, parents do need to be aware of the downsides to this other very useful communications tech too. CNN reports that, according to law enforcement, cellphones were used by a teacher and 14-year-old student in a case in which she allegedly developed the relationship with and had sex with the boy on school grounds. So many of us get our kids cellphones so we know where they are and they can call us when they need us. Certainly we will and should keep doing that, but we need to know there are other uses for those phones, from very rare uses such as the case above to teen pranks and bullying that can be very destructive in their own way. "A New York mom, who requested anonymity because her kids don't know about her surveillance, said she uses software to regularly check her children's e-mail and online activity on the home computer. But she also gave her kids cell phones that have texting and photographic capability. Asked why she doesn't scrutinize the phone the same way she snoops on the computer," she told CNN she hadn't really thought about it. Just something to think about and discuss with our kids. A discussion point might be "How to recognize grooming." The CNN article also goes into the subject of "grooming" - predators' insidious process of gaining a child's confidence overtime, citing the work of Betsy Ramsey, who "has spent 20 years working with child and female victims and chairs the DeKalb County Domestic Violence Task Force in Georgia."

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