When I heard the story about the 15-year-old Florida girl who (willingly) had sex with multiple boys from her high school while up to 25 other boys watched, I couldn’t help but think of the poor girl’s mother. The story is just about every mother’s worst nightmare come true for her daughter, but it gets worse. A Snapchat video of the event was taken and it quickly spread around the school, and the internet.
But when I heard the story about the 17-year-old Ohio girl who live streamed her friend being raped by a man they had both met at the mall the day before, I realized that is every mother’s worst nightmare for her daughter. The girl who live streamed the rape now faces up to 40 years in jail despite her own claims she was trying preserve evidence of her friend’s rape. She says she got caught up in the likes and positive feedback she received on the 10-minute long video, which might explain why she never called 911.
Whatever the case, live streaming and social media can put already vulnerable girls into humiliating and unsafe situations that have impact far beyond the moment. Graphic sexual situations involving teens are amplified by the power and immediate impact of live streaming. It’s hard to imagine any sane person videotaping a rape rather than calling 911, but it’s even more difficult to imagine having that assault shown in real time to anyone with a wireless connection and a cell phone. But this is the reality in which our children now live.
That Snapchat video won’t seem so funny if you go to jail for taking it.
As a parent, it’s hard enough for me to imagine what it’s like for kids growing up in an instant, digital world. If you’ve used Snapchat, Periscope or Facebook Live, you know they can be a lot of fun. With all three, the live aspect can be exhilarating. Live streaming can make everyone feel like a star for a moment, each with his or her own personal audience. But everything they do—the good, the bad and the humiliating—can, and probably will be, caught on film. The live elements of Snapchat, Periscope and Facebook Live take the potential humiliation factors up a notch. An embarrassing picture says a thousand words, but a live video streamed for a bunch of strangers says a million.
Even more concerning to me as a the mother of a daughter, is that live streaming can make our children victims over and over again and desensitize whomever is filming, and whomever is watching, into thinking something like a teen’s rape is entertainment worthy of social media likes.
So parents, guess what? If you don’t know what Snapchat and Periscope are, get to know them because you can’t inform your kids about something that totally baffles you. And make sure your daughters understand these simple facts about live streaming.
1. Your Grandma can see that Snapchat video!
Snapchat files are deleted after 24 hours, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be screenshotted and shared before that. Before you let yourself be filmed doing anything, make sure it’s something you’d want your teachers at school, your rabbi or priest, your friends, your grandpa, your future employer or the person deciding whether or not you get in to college, to see. Because there’s a chance each and everyone one of them could see it.
2. Assume you’re being filmed unless you know you’re not.
In any group setting, there are probably countless people live streaming some portion of an event. If you see a phone pointed your way, assume it’s filming and/or live streaming whatever you’re doing. Make sure you’re comfortable being filmed doing whatever it is you’re doing.
3. It’s illegal to film someone in the nude without his or her consent.
No judgment about why our kid is in the nude, but they should know that it’s completely illegal for someone to film them without their permission. And if your kid has a cell phone, make sure they know that they are committing a crime if they film someone in the nude without his or her consent. That Snapchat video won’t seem so funny if you go to jail for taking it.
4. The world may be watching, but so are mom and dad.
Parents can install software that allows them to see into their child’s social media apps. So after you make your child aware that the world could be watching whatever is they are live streaming, so could you. And you should!
5. Never, ever use Snapchat, Periscope or Facebook Live on someone who is unaware they are being filmed.
Just don’t do it and you won’t have to worry if you’ve broken a law.
6. Don’t do anything you’re uncomfortable with on video.
Even if “everybody’s doing it,” it doesn’t mean you have to be everybody. And just know that everybody isn’t doing it because there is no everybody.