April 16, 2009 — -- Wednesday "Good Morning America" and Internet safety expert Parry Aftab of WiredSafety.com brought parents and kids together to discuss a new, possibly dangerous phenomenon called "sexting" -- teens sharing with friends sexually explicit images or messages via cell phones.
We asked viewers to send in their questions about how to protect their kids, and the response was overwhelming. So we brought Aftab back to respond to some of the most common, most pressing questions we received.
What were those three things parents can do to see if their kids are at risk?
First, parents should Google their child's first and last names in quotes, Aftab said. Second, do the same with their child's cell phone number. See what results come back for each of these searches.
Third, parents can download Google Desktop, which can search your computer for pictures and videos the same way regular Google searches the Internet. That way you can see if your computer is already home to some potentially dangerous images or videos. To find Google Desktop, do a search for "Google Desktop" on Google.com.
If texting is the problem, why not get your child a phone that can't do that?
According to Aftab, it's not texting that's the problem, and it can actually be a great way to stay in touch with your child. It's the pictures that can pose a problem.
If they choose, parents can buy a phone without a camera -- which the child might hate -- but will largely solve the problem. Or, you can call the phone company and request a plan that restricts Internet access and picture texting. Not only will you be safer, it could save you money.
Why doesn't simply taking away their phones work?
Many parents might not know, but many gaming devices that use the Internet, including the Xbox, Nintendo DS and Sony PSP have memory cards that allow kids to keep pictures on them. Webcams, digital video, iPhones, iTouch and iPods can all be used. With all these other options, taking away the phone is probably not the complete answer, Aftab said.
If Your Kid's Involved in Sexting
What if you find out your child has been involved in sexting?
It's important to remember there's a difference between spying and parenting, Aftab said. Make sure your message comes across as a concern for their safety, not as nosiness about who they texting.
But don't let them intimidate you from your job as a parent. The first time you check up on them, give them an opportunity to clean up things first. Then it's not a "gotcha" moment. It's an opportunity for discussion.
Why do the kids do this in the first place?
For a lot of good kids out there, the problem is that they're forced into a situation, Aftab said. They don't know how to say no.
We need to start giving them some answers like "if you love me, you wouldn't ask me to do this. You wouldn't put me in a humiliating situation." We need to give girls and boys the language to say, "I love you, but I won't do this."