In this age of technology, teens may be tempted to take photos of themselves in compromising positions and send those to friends.  These pictures may be of themselves at a party drinking alcohol or even a picture of them in their underwear (or less) to a boyfriend or girlfriend.  They may think it’s not a big deal to send a private picture to one recipient, but that one ‘innocent’ photo may then be passed along to friends via text messages or posts on social networking sites.  Even if the picture is posted on a social networking site with ‘private settings’ with teens thinking only their friends are seeing them, the recent media coverage on celebrity nude photos shows us just how those compromising pictures can come back to haunt them later.

Recently the media has mentioned two young Hollywood celebrities Vanessa Hudgens and Scarlett Johansson as being the latest to have nude photos pop up on magazine covers.  They are definitely not the first to have something like this happen (other examples are Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian’s private sex tapes). Vanessa had photos with very little clothing posted online. In Scarlett’s case, these may or may not have been photos taken of herself sanz clothing in a mirror (some reports say the pics are photoshopped).  Regardless, they are both quickly learning that once a picture has been set free in our virtual world, it is out there for good. 

The things teens may think of as ‘innocent and private’ may cause a lot of trouble in the future.  Cyberbullying is something I’m seeing more often than in the past.  The teen who has a nude picture of an ex on his/her phone may send that out to all of their friends in a fit of revenge if the relationship starts to crumble. The embarrassment and teasing that comes after a photo is released can make it impossible to go to school. More and more potential employers are performing a Facebook sweep or Google search of people they’re considering hiring.  The job candidate with multiple pictures of themselves partying in college may have outgrown having drinking buddies on the weekends, but the image the employer sees is one of an irresponsible person who may not show up to work because they’re hung over!

So what can a parent do? 

  • First and foremost, talk with your teens about expectations of their behavior. Discuss healthy relationships and be a role model as well. 
  • Ask your teen if their friends have ever posted compromising pictures on an internet site, or sent them via text messages.  Knowing what their friends are doing often gives a good idea of what behaviors they may be doing or thinking of doing. 
  • If your child has a social networking page, make sure you’re their ‘friend’ on it and can view their posts.  Review privacy settings on the internet sites, but remind them that once a picture is in the virtual world, it cannot be easily deleted.