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The Internet isn’t necessarily your friend

“Think before posting. It’s never deleted.” — Lt. David Rice, Commander Troop B, Connecticut State Police This statement was made at an informational meeting and discussion for parents of Housatonic Valley Regional High School (HVRHS) students sponsored by the school administration at the end of February following a sexting incident that affected many students. It’s not easy for teens to face some realities of life, including those related to the Internet and postings that can haunt them for years. There are consequences for ill-thought-out actions such as sending out lewd photos, even to a person one thinks of as a friend, as all who were involved with this incident have found out. What must be especially chilling for teenagers once they begin to realize how vulnerable their digital discussions are is that the Internet and texting must seem like a safe haven for them in many ways. They can communicate with their friends without the authority figures in their lives being in on the conversation, so they are taking steps toward independence before completely understanding its repercussions. Of course, adults often don’t fully understand the long-term dangers of what they post digitally, either. This can make it difficult for parents to guide their children from a young age and prepare them to cope with the best ways to conduct their social lives in a world of constant and often uncontrollable communication. So it’s of some real help to parents when educators can step in and give support to them as well as their children in dealing with the opportunities and challenges of 21st-century life.HVRHS Principal Matt Harnett and the faculty members whose students were sent the text in question have handled its aftermath as well as possible. Unlike some organizations that try to deny or cover up unethical or immoral activity in their midst, the teachers and administration at Housy have faced it, discussed it with students, and facilitated open communication with parents and the community. Harnett talked about the sexting incident at the Region One board meeting in January, and announced the February meeting at that time. The meeting was a good approach. Although only about 10 parents attended, at least they and their children have benefited from having this resource. Harnett has made himself available to parents, will share information with them and is willing to try to help guide students in the right path. This incident must have been very difficult for all the adults and students at the high school to deal with honestly while maintaining a climate of mutual respect, especially since that mutual respect was so devastated by the sexting. Could it happen again? Perhaps, but one would hope to believe students have learned something coming out of this. The best deterrent to such behavior as was exhibited by the students who sent forward the image in the text is keeping it in the light. This Harnett, the teachers at Housatonic and parents have done. Now it’s up to the students to think about their actions before they take them, keeping Rice’s words on posting in mind.

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