Teenage Texans' use of text messaging and camera-equipped cell phones has led to an alarming new practice: sexting.
Sexting is the practice of teenagers sending sexually explicit messages or images electronically, primarily between mobile phones. Technological improvements that are now standard on many mobile phones allow teenagers to easily distribute photographs and videos to boyfriends, girlfriends and friends. Some young Texans are even sexting to strangers they have only met online.
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy surveyed 1,300 teenagers about sexting and found troubling results:
The social danger for teenagers is that the message sender has no control of its distribution. Nearly 20 percent of sexting recipients have passed the image to someone else who the sender may or may not know. Suggestive photographs easily can be downloaded to a computer, posted on public Web sites or printed and distributed.
Unintentional circulation of inappropriate images can lead to suspensions from school or athletic participation and cause embarrassment. Compromising photos can hinder teens' attempts to get into college, receive scholarships or gain employment.
More importantly, sexting can lead law enforcement to confiscate communication devices and cause other serious legal problems. One in five teens surveyed say they have sexted despite the fact that most of them knew it was a crime.
The owner of a computer or cell phone containing pictures of nude or semi-nude minors can be investigated and prosecuted on felony child pornography charges. Teenagers in possession of sexually suggestive images of classmates or companions under 18 could face up to 10 years in prison.
Clearly, this dangerous technological trend can haunt children for years, and it is impacting schools and communities statewide. Of course, investigators and prosecutors consider the circumstances of each case before deciding whether - and which - charges charges may apply. By the time law enforcement has gotten involved, however, someone has already gotten hurt. Education and active parenting present the best way to ensure children avoid this dangerous activity.
Parents must have frank conversations with their children about the potential for embarrassment and the legal ramifications of sexting. If teens do not want a photo or text message to fall into the wrong hands - including strangers, potential employers, teachers or college admission officers - they should not send it. A lack of privacy can put them at risk.
Teens, parents, teachers and law enforcement authorities must keep an open line of communication to combat sexting - which is why our Cyber Crimes Unit officers criss-cross the state speaking to students and parents about Internet and wireless communication safety.
Parents, law enforcement officers and others who have questions or want more information about protecting children should visit our Web site, www.texasattorneygeneral.gov. Together, we must work to keep young Texans safe from harm.
Attorney General of Texas
According to a recent study, 20 percent of teenagers have electronically sent or posted naked or semi-naked photographs of themselves online. Even more teens are sending suggestive or explicit e-mails, instant messages (IMs) or text messages €“ in some cases to people they have never met in person, but only know online.
While most expect that the content will only be viewed by a trusted boyfriend or girlfriend, too often that is not the case. Nearly 40 percent of teens report that they have had racy messages or photos shared with them €“ when they knew those pictures were intended for someone else. This content can be forwarded to lots of unintended recipients or posted on the Internet for the world to see.
In addition to causing embarrassment, circulating these photos also can be illegal. Depending on the content and ages of the subject and recipient, some e-mailed or texted photos may meet the legal definition of child pornography. Persons convicted of possessing child pornography face up to 10 years in prison. They may also have to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.
There are many possible consequences associated with suggestive messages and photographs of oneself. These messages or photos may:
College recruiters, teachers, potential employers, parents and others may all be able to find previous Internet posting were after the original has been deleted. For example, before a photo’s deletion, it may have already been copied or posted elsewhere.
Failing to comprehensively assess consequences is one of the hallmarks of youth. Another hallmark is poor judgment. Growing up takes time. So, in many instances, teenagers are aware of the risks posed by their online activities €“ but they believe the bad consequences will not happen to them.
Education and frank discussions between parents and their children are critically important. Parents and educators should consistently explain that sexually themed communications and photos are inappropriate and dangerous. In cyberspace, harmful or embarrassing photographs can quickly make the rounds and fall into the wrong hands, including those of child predators. They can also lead to ridicule and unwanted attention.
Parents should take an active interest and pay close attention to their kids’ use of technology. They should be clear with their teens about what they consider appropriate behavior. Cell phone carriers offer tools, some of which are free, to limit wireless devices’ content and communications capabilities. Text messaging service can be turned off or limited to certain hours. Internet access can be removed or filtered by age appropriateness. Parents can consider buying a phone that has no camera feature.
Don’t assume anything sent or posted online is going to remain private.
There is no changing your mind in cyberspace — assume anything sent or posted online will never really go away.
Nothing is truly anonymous. Screen names, phone numbers or e-mail addresses can all be traced back to an individual if someone “including a criminal“ tries hard enough.
The Wireless Foundation, www.wirelessfoundation.org
Office of the Attorney General
AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today urged Texans to learn more about identity theft prevention - and use that knowledge to avoid becoming victims of identity theft. This week has been designated as National Protect Your Identity Week.
Identity theft occurs when a criminal illegally uses another person's personally identifying information, including names, addresses, driver's license numbers, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers or other financial information to commit fraud or other crimes. Victims may miss job opportunities, or be denied loans for housing, education or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. Texas ranks second in the nation for incidences of the crime, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
"Identity theft continues to be one of the most pervasive and costly white-collar crimes in the country," Attorney General Abbott said. "The Office of the Attorney General is committed to aggressively enforcing identity theft prevention laws. Texans should shred unwanted documents that contain their personal information and take other steps to prevent sensitive account numbers from falling into the hands of identity thieves."
To help prevent identity theft, the OAG established a Web site, www.texasfightsidtheft.gov, devoted to providing Texans information they need to protect themselves from this crime. This Web site has video testimonials of actual victims depicting their struggles to restore their good names.
This recently launched Web site also has an Identity Theft Victim's Kit which offers a step-by-step checklist for victims to use to prevent further damage. Confirmed identity theft victims should immediately close all bank, credit, utility and service accounts. Victims should contact one of the major credit bureaus and place fraud alerts or security freezes on their credit reports. This will prevent new accounts from being fraudulently opened under the victims' name.
For more information about steps Texans can take to protect their personal information, visit www.protectyouridnow.org. For more information about the OAG's efforts to fight identity theft, visit www.texasfightsidtheft.gov.
The following security precautions are furnished to assist you in making your home more secure against being burglarized.
a. Make sure all exterior doors are metal or solid wood, 1 3/8" thick.
b. The hinges should be on the inside of the door and the doorframe should be strong enough to withstand excessive force.
c. Use a high security "strike plate" for the lock and secure to the doorframe with #12, 3" wood screws.
d. Use good quality single cylinder deadbolt locks with at least a 1" throw. e. Install a 190-degree door viewer (peephole) on the main entrance. Install the door viewer at a height accessible to the shortest person in the household or install more than one, at varying heights.
a. "Charlie Bar" commercially manufactured security device that is installed on the door/door frame.
b. "Pinning" Inserting a pin in a hole drilled in the doorframe. Commercial devices are available or a nail can be placed in the hole.
c. Place a broomstick or wooden dowel in the track to secure the door against being pried open. You made also need to "pin" the door to keep it from being lifted from the track.
a. Metal windows can be secured with commercial locking devices that are attached to the window's track. It is recommended you use one on both tracks of the window. It is recommended you do not use key operated devices as it may pose a safety issue in the event of a fire.
b. Wooden windows can be secured by "pinning" or by placing a wooden dowel in both sides of the window's tracks.
c. Louvered or jalousie windows pose a special security problem. These type windows can be secured by installing reinforced metal screening.
Operation I. D.: Mark/engrave your valuables with your TX. I.D. or D.L. number and make an inventory of them to include: brand, model, size, and serial number. Photograph or video tape those valuable or collectible items that do not have serial numbers.
Alarms: Alarms should be used in combination with other security measures. If your home has an alarm it should have an interior and exterior siren and be monitored by a U.L. approved central monitoring station.
For further home security tips or for a free home security survey contact the Waco police department's community outreach and support section at 750-1761.
REMEMBER AN UNUSED LOCK OFFERS NO PROTECTION!
School's out and vacation time has arrived! Travel and trips are the agenda for summer adventure! Here are some safety tips to help you avoid serious problems while you are on your trip or vacation.
ON THE ROAD:
IN YOUR MOTEL:
IN THE AREA:
Crashes are the leading cause of death of children in the United States, in most cases, child passenger injuries and deaths can be prevented. Many injuries and deaths occur as a result of the high misuse rate of car seats, booster seats, and seat belts. Child restraints, or car seats, reduce the risk of injury by 71-82% and reduce the risk of death by 28% in comparison to children in seat belts alone. Booster seats reduce the risk of nonfatal injuries by 45% among 4 to 8 year olds.
A person commits an offense if the person operates a passenger vehicle, transports a child who is younger than 8 years of age, unless the child is taller than 4 FT. 9 IN. and does not keep the child secured during the operation of the vehicle in a child passenger safety seat system according to the instructions of the manufacturer of the safety seat system. The fine for having an unsecured child under 8 or less than 4 FT. 9 IN. tall is $299.
TIPS: Tether anchors are often located on the rear floor of vans, station wagons, and SUVs. Tether anchors have upper weight limits; check your vehicle owner’s manual
WARNING: Never allow children to put shoulder belts under their arms or behind their backs. Lap and shoulder belts are required for booster seat use. A booster seat cannot be used with a lap only belt.
TIP: Never share safety belts—one passenger per safety belt
Human trafficking is slavery, and it’s worse today than at any point in history. There are more than 30 million slaves in the world today, in both forced labor and sex trafficking.
The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. (Trafficking Victims Protection Act)
The recruitment, harboring, transportation or obtaining of a person for a commercial sex act (including pornography and stripping) in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age (Trafficking Victims Protection Act).
While any child is susceptible to trafficking, traffickers typically prey on individuals who are vulnerable in some way because they are the easiest to manipulate.
Age. Younger children are easier to manipulate, and there’s a growing demand for their exploitation.
Runaway and homeless. Studies show that runaways are often approached by a trafficker within days of leaving home.
Living below poverty line. Traffickers manipulate a victim’s desires for a “better life” in order to exploit them. In many cross-border cases, victims follow the promise of a good job only to find themselves in the grip of a trafficker.
Physical or sexual abuse at home. Many victims are more susceptible to a trafficker’s manipulation because of a previous history of abuse from family members.
Gang involvement or drug abuse. Often, victims join a gang and are forced to perform sexually for gang members or become drug dependent, with their pimps as the suppliers.
Older boyfriend. Traffickers often play the role of a “boyfriend” or “lover” as they groom younger girls, then later manipulate or coerce them into prostitution.
Psychological or emotional difficulties. Victims who show low self-esteem or are having trouble at home are often targeted by traffickers.
(Sources: Global Slavery Index, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, U.S. Dept. of State, Shared Hope International, U.S. Census Bureau, Waco ISD)
From the National Human Trafficking Resource Center
Note: According to federal law, any minor under the age of 18 engaging in commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking, regardless of the presence of force, fraud, or coercion.
To report suspected human trafficking or to be connected to local resources, contact the NHTRC.
The toll-free hotline is available 24/7 to receive tips and serve survivors and victims of human trafficking all around the country. With more than 200 languages available, the hotline is equipped to connect individuals with critical support and services.
In all emergency situations, call 911 or your local law enforcement agency.
- Crimes Against Children: 254-752-2600
- For Adults & After-Hours Calls: 254-750-7500 or 911
To report suspected human trafficking, call DHS 1-866-347-2423
To access resources for victims, call the Crisis Hotline. The Victims Center Hotline: 254-752-7233 or toll free at 888-867-7233 (available 24/7 for crisis intervention)
If you ever suspect a child is being abused, neglected or exploited, make a report.
For more information or to talk to someone about suspected local human trafficking, contact UnBound.
- Website: www.UnBoundNow.org
- Weekday: 254-754-0386 ext. 134
- Night and weekends: 254-230-0872
With the sweltering temperatures of summer upon us the Waco Police Department would like to remind you of the dangers of leaving a child or animal unattended in a motor vehicle. The Centers for Disease Control says a child can die from the extreme heat in five to 10 minutes. The same is true of an animal left alone in a car.
The applicable laws are as follows:
1. Texas Penal Code, Section 22.10. Leaving a child in a vehicle.
(a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly leaves a child in a motor vehicle for longer than five minutes, knowing that the child is:
1. Younger than seven years of age; and
2. Not attended by an individual in the vehicle 14 years of age or older.
(b) An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of $376 dollars in Waco's Municipal Court.
2. Texas Penal Code, Section 22.041, endangering a child may also apply.
(a) A person commits an offense if he leaves a child in any place without providing reasonable and necessary care for the child, under circumstances under which no reasonable, similarly situated adult would leave a child of that age (younger than 15) and ability.
(b) An offense under this section is a Felony.
3. City Ordinance section 5-121. Animals in motor vehicles apply to animals left unattended in vehicles in a manner that may endanger the animal's health, safety or welfare. An offense under this ordinance is punishable by a fine of $300 dollars in Waco's Municipal Court.
Join us in protecting our children and pets from the dangers of heat injuries.
(Source: U.S. Dept of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation)
What are signs that your child might be at risk on-line
Your child spends large amounts of time on-line, especially at night.
What can you do to minimize the chances of an on-line exploiter victimizing your child?
For more information about protecting your child on-line go to www.missingkids.com/cybertip
The Federal Trade Commission has regulations on telemarketing:
In the first part of the call, the caller must identify the company's name and, if it's a sales call, what is being sold.
If you need help or suspect fraud call the National Fraud Information Center at 1-800-876-7060.
Texans may add their residential and wireless phone number to the "No Call List" to help limit the number of unwanted telemarketing calls they receive. Registration can be accomplished online via www.TexasNoCall.com or by printing the registration form and mailing it to Texas No Call, 711 Atlantic Ave. 6th Floor, Boston MA 02111.
There is no fee to register and your number(s) remain on the list for three years.
"Help, someone used my name and social security number to open a credit card account!
The 1990's introduced an era of new criminals called "Identity Thieves". Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the United States. Each day you routinely use and provide personal information (checks, cell phone, credit cards, bank account, social security number, address, etc.) to complete your daily transactions. An identity thief acquires an item of your personal information without your knowledge and uses it to commit fraud or theft by using existing or opening new accounts in your name.
Protecting your Identity
While there is no guarantee your identity will not be stolen, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk:
Do not give out your personal information (SSN, DOB, account numbers, etc.) over the Internet (unless you've initiated the contact or its on a secure website) or to people or companies you do not know.
If You're a Victim
If you have been a victim of identity theft the steps that you take will depend on your circumstances however, the following actions are appropriate in most cases:
Identity Theft is a Crime: Report It Immediately
Federal law - Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 (18 U.S.C. & 1028)
Texas law - Penal code 32.51, Fraudulent use or possession of identifying information.
The Waco Police Department along with other agencies across Texas and the nation are asking you to make a difference in the lives of our children and help stamp out child abuse and neglect.
If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected you are required by law to report the matter to law enforcement or the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Simply reporting it to someone else or to the school does not fulfill your legal responsibility. Your report of child abuse/neglect is confidential and immune from civil or criminal liability as long as the report is made in ‘good faith’ and ‘without malice’.
If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected:
Do Not try to investigate
Do Not confront the abuser
Do Report your reasonable suspicion: Call your local Law Enforcement Agency or DFPS at 1-800-252-5400.
Warning Signs of Abuse, Sexual Assault or Neglect can range from visible injuries, burns, emotionless behavior/withdrawn, lack of personal cleanliness to inappropriate or promiscuous behavior. If you observe physical injuries or abnormal behavior for which there is not a simple or innocent explanation report your concerns to the authorities.
Remember you are legally responsible for the care and safety of your child.
*April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.