Tracy Webb is a Senior Trial Attorney and the Managing Attorney for the Crime Prevention and Youth Protection Division & Director of Child Abuse Policy for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office.
As a criminal prosecutor for the past twenty-seven (27) years, Tracy has seen most of what is out there involved with crimes against children. Tracy noted that there has been an increase with crimes against children with the onset of the Internet and the digital devices.
There needs to be a shift in the perception of cell phones…They are not cell phones any longer. Our kids are carrying mini-computers in his or her pocket capable of outperforming some of the desktops and laptops used in the market. We are providing our children mini computers that can also function as a cell phone, web browser, camera, camcorder, music player, etc.
Catherine Teitelbaum, Director of Child Safety at Yahoo!, posed the question, “When should we allow our children cell phones”? We should ask ourselves, what is the intended use of the phone? Many times, as parents, we only want to be able to contact our child to assure they have made the bus, arrived at a destination, or for them to contact home. The other functions are out of the scope for the intended use at present. There are still some very basic phones available with pre-programmed numbers to call and void of all the bells and whistles…ET call home – that is it.
Later, when his or her daughter exhibit a more mature digital behavior that reflects a deeper understanding of the basic safety best practices and dangers present on the Internet should you consider an upgrade. A smart phone is a privilege not a right. Here is another caveat…Smart phones need smart users, so as a parent you need to have a good understanding how the little mini-computer works.
One of the task force that Tracy Webb sits on is the Los Angeles Adolescence Suicide Review Team. The team of experts consists of law enforcement, health care, and social services that assemble monthly to evaluate the suicide cases that happened in Los Angeles County. According to Tracy, the information has been horrifying, “There seems to be a whole new world of cruelty that kids, and frankly adults sometimes are using on one another”, which has created a new order of cyberbullying.
There are several components of bullying and cyberbullying. Other than the obvious, the victim who is the target of the bully or the cyberbully, in addition there are also the bystanders and the re-enforcers. Each individual affects a role in the escalation or diffusing the bully. Peers have an enormous influence over the situation. Peers collectively and publically disapproving the bully’s action will have a greater impact in disarming the situation.
In the case of social media and cyberbullying, the bystanders are all those who view or participate in the bullying behavior online. One of the first steps we need to do is inform parents and school officials. Again, a common denominator that surfaces repeatedly is communication and awareness. We need to be talking about the issues with our children.
A question we asked Tracy was why do kids hesitate approaching his or her parent when faced with cyber bullying or other problems on the Internet? It is an age-old answer, “kids are embarrassed, and/or they think they can handle these things on their own. In addition, kids do not understand the potential of escalation. Every situation is different, however; peer pressure is a powerful deterrent, and if you can develop peer groups that work, together to stop bullying it will be more effective.
Adults need to recognize that the brain of a child is not fully developed to handle all the current technologies and yet we have thrown our children into the digital age without any training or understanding what might be presented to them. It is unlikely any child can defend against an online predator and his years of mastering techniques befriending children and the grooming process. Be sure your child understands that he or she can approach you with any problem that may arise on the internet. Two of the top reasons kids do not tell his or her parent of an existing problem is because they fear the parent is going to freak-out and/or take away their computer privileges. Assure your child he or she can come to you no matter what, even if they have made a mistake.
Then add to the digital mix of problems the children who are “sexting” one another, and treading precariously in legal matters of child pornography and distribution. Some teens now live their entire lives as a registered sex offender because of a childish indiscretion. Kids do not fully understand the legal consequences of the technology they are using. Parents need to talk to his or her child about these matters. The laws were not set up or prepared to deal with many of these new technologies confronting our children. Parents need to understand the childish behaviors surrounding the seduction of technology.
Fifteen years ago, adults had little or no computer experience, maybe a science fair or two, but no prior grounding or life experiences in technology to draw upon to pass on to his or her child. The transition into the Digital Age and broadband are uncharted waters with many unknown variables. Parents need to prepare his or her child for growing up digitally with a solid understanding of the new technologies and the social networks…Communicate with your children.
How do we control our private information, and particularly our children? Today’s eKids are the first generation of technology-based children, and raised by parents that does not get the technology; digitally impaired. There is hope, the next generation of eKids will be parented by more technically well-informed individuals and live an eLife without trouble.
ICAC-TF (Internet Crimes Against Children–Task Force) – Who will listen? How do you deal with professional grief? What is vicarious victimization? These are major concerns for members who deal with crimes against children, and the task of keeping children safe from horrific acts of violence. Not everyone is cut out to do this work; it takes a special person to deal in this section. “You need to be able to compartmentalize and not take the cases home with you”, said Tracy. “You see the worst of the worst when you deal with individuals that hunt children”, continued Tracy.
How do you spend the years Tracy Webb and others have defending our children against perverted hunters and not vicariously become victimized by all that you have seen and heard…You don’t. So, let us not forget to provide the care and attention our defenders of children deserve. Thank you Tracy and all the others like you for what you do to protect the innocence of our children.
Here is a heads up for parents regarding a recent trend… Impersonating another online with the intent to cause harm is taking cyberbullying to the next level…Children on children victimization. Parents need to learn the technologies and start talking to one another about these new technologies. For example if you hear kids talking about “Formspring” or “ChatRoulette” it’s time to decide if these are sites appropriate for your child.
Your CyberHood Watch Partner,
david c ballard
Radio Security Journalist
PS: Leave a comment at the bottom or feel free to ask a question…Thank you.
- Parents Are Key to Ending Cyberbullying; Monitoring Internet Activity and Interactions, Essential (prweb.com)
- Time to take the ‘cyber’ out of cyberbullying (news.cnet.com)
- Cyberbullying (education.com)
- Randy Taran: Cyberbullying: Strategies to Take Back Your Power (huffingtonpost.com)