Rules Every Kid In The World Should Have Tattooed On Their Forehead

There is a storm online about some nude pictures of a certain Disney celebrity. This has upset me to no end. This is just not something an 18-year-old girl should be dealing with. But she is. And as a Mom it makes me upset. But seriously – it is now the time for every parent to have a realistic discussion with their kids about the pitfalls of the digital age.

There are many stories about this type of situation lining the high school hallways across the nation. Vanessa Hudgen’s story is a little unique in her celebrity status – BUT – ask any high schooler and they’ll tell you that they know of a similar story of someone at their school. A girl takes a picture of her BFF while she’s changing for gym on her cell phone. It’s all innocent and funny until the girl in the picture starts dating the ex-boyfriend of the girl who took it. Next thing you know? The picture is on the phone of everyone at school. Or what if a teenage becomes suddenly famous – like with the contestants on American Idol? Suddenly any kid who has a compromising photo of that teen sends it online for the whole world to see. Or what if a teen is being a teen and is at a party where there is underage drinking. They have a drink, like most teens would do. Pictures get taken and put to a party-goer’s MySpace and a college admission counselor who Googles their name finds it.

So many ways that these things can happen to affect your child. And mine. Even if they aren’t famous.

When LilZ started using the internet and MySpace – we had several long talks. We had (and still have repeatedly) the SAFETY FIRST talk. Every parent has that with their child. Every parent (hopefully) monitors their child’s conversations to make sure they know the person they’re talking to and make sure they aren’t giving out person information online. But no one has the PROTECT YOUR FUTURE FROM EMBARRASSMENT AND HUMILIATION talk. There are two rules I give my son and I repeat to him at least once a week. Sometimes once a day, which he really loves:

1) Do not ever let someone take a picture of you doing anything that you wouldn’t want the whole world to see.
2) Assume everyone in the world will read every word you write on the internet.

I feel like I need to repeat them again for good measure:

1) Do not ever let someone take a picture of you doing anything that you wouldn’t want the whole world to see.
2) Assume everyone in the world will read every word you write on the internet.

I typically use “Your Nana” as a person to think about. I tell him to imagine his Nana reading what he’s writing. How would she feel? I figure that’s a good judgment for future employers and admissions counselors. Or, what if the person he’s bitching about (like a teacher or a classmate) finds the entry he wrote. Even if he thinks they can’t, what if they do. Would he want them reading it? If not, then he shouldn’t write it. The end. Just imagine there is no privacy on the internet anymore. It’s safer that way.

I also warn him the seemingly innocent photographs. Some kids drink before they’re 21, some kids smoke pot in college, some kids get naked. These are things that we, as parents, may not be happy about, but they might happen. We don’t want these things following our children around forever. SERIOUSLY. I don’t even want to think about how my life would be different if I had let certain things be photographed. If you have a kid old enough to be using the internet – or who has friends who are using the internet – tell them what is happening to Vanessa Hudgens. Tell them she is probably crying and devastated and embarrassed. She may lose her job, her career path, and everyone in the world now knows what she looks like naked. This poor girl thought this photo would be seen by one trusted person. Somehow it has been leaked (who knows how) and the whole world has seen it. You can not trust that this will not happen to your child. They may not be a celebrity, but things like this still can affect their life if it gets shown around school. If Vanessa was just a normal girl in high school who may have pissed off the wrong person, the picture could still have been passed around and embarrassed her. And what if your child does become famous one day? Most kids want to be famous, so relate to them on that level. Say, “If your dream of becoming famous is fulfilled, and someone has a bad picture of you, they’ll show it to the world because the world will pay to see it.”

I just imagine Vanessa’s parents feeling so bad for their daughter and so angered that something so private got leaked so that every creep in the world can now see it. She is 18, but she’s still a kid. A kid who made the mistake of assuming that picture would be safe. I just feel bad for her. The internet is a wonderful thing, but make sure your teens and pre-teens understand how that wonderful internet could turn against them if they’re not careful.

Stepping down from the soap box and hoping you’ll forgive me for that tirade

22 thoughts on “Rules Every Kid In The World Should Have Tattooed On Their Forehead”

  1. i feel bad for her, too. but these aren’t pics she took before she got famous. and being that she thinks she’s old enough to be sending naked pics of herself to her boyfriend via the internet …

    i guess if it had been something she’d done before she got famous and now it was being leaked i’d feel worse. but she knew the risks of being famous and doing something like that and chose to do it. it’s super embarassing, sure. but she made the choice to embarass herself is sort of how i see it.

    and we’ll all forget tomorrow, because paris will get jealous that the focus isn’t on her, and come out with another “leaked” porn tape!

  2. I haven’t actually gotten to the age where my gals will be in situations like this but I never thought about it. We didn’t have digital when I was in school and NOBODY had a cell phone. How weird to think that they could easily take photos of each other without too much effort in the locker room. Poor kids.

  3. @robyn – I understand your point, but thinking back to when I was 18, I still don’t think 18 is “old enough to know better” when it comes to trusting people. You are still young enough to think you can trust certain people, not realizing how they can betray you.

  4. Well said. I think your PSA was a well thought-out, reasonable message. I applaud you for being a good mother. Kids are doing too much, too soon for this technology age and they aren’t prepared for the negative consequences. Although why a celebrity would do something this stupid is beyond me. If you’re famous and you have a photograph taken of you doing something you probably shouldn’t be doing, expect it to be circulated.

  5. I work on a college campus and i am CONSTANTLY lecturing the students about what they are putting on myspace and facebook. Employers are using the internet to research potential job candidates, you have to be very careful about what you are putting out there and what others are saying about you as well. We had to shut down facebook on campus last year because some bozo decided to put up a video of him and his ex-girlfried (both students here) having sex….nice… I have been plastering this cartoon everywhere

  6. I haven’t heard about this, mainly because I live under a rock. But I have always tried to live by those rules, even before the internet.

    And it’s awesome that you are so involved with LilZ and remind of those things, whether he likes it or not. He’ll appreciate one day when he’s Senator.

  7. I love to see the fierce MamaBear come out in people when they believe in something.

    I too will be talking to my 11 year old about this tonight!

  8. I feel super bad for her too, but at the same time totally agree with what Robyn said. At 18 I probably (note the word probably) would have known better and been more than mortified to take a naked photo of myself. (Now I’d be even more mortified!!! Things don’t quite look like they used to.) I hate that this is putting such a dark cloud over HSM. I think the movies are great and am sorry to see this happen to the series.

  9. I often think how lucky I am that cell phone cameras and all that other stuff didn’t exist when I was in high school. Or college. I acted like such an idiot that I’m sure there would be more than enough digital proof of my behavior to make me feel even worse about those memories than I already do.

    Good for you for talking to him about it. It’s another method of bullying and parents should be cautious about it.

  10. i think you’ve mentioned those rules before, and i remember thinking that was a great way to look at the whole internet presence thing.

    i was just thinking about it a few days ago, actually…i mean, those rules apply to more than just kids on myspace, right? i’ve been self-censoring the crap out of myself (literally, writing about stupid, boring crap most of the time) because the real issues that i have to right about…the ones where i feel like i actually have something to contribute to a broader community or blah blah whatever…well, i’m afraid to write about those things because i have an uncle who reads my site, like, once every six months.

    so, i’m trying to find a way around that.
    but i can’t really think of anything.

    maybe just a warning on posts that i think he, or my grandpa, or any random lurking family member might not want to read? in the end, i would be ok with them knowing everything that i have to say: i am me, after all. but i wouldn’t want them to sort of stumble across it and then have no way to un-read it.

    holy crap, i’m sorry i just typed for so long.

  11. She is still a child. I don’t care if she IS eighteen. I work with some very young girls. And they are naive and sweet and like my babies. They are children. Period.

    I feel badly for her. I am also sure she has learned a very tough lesson she will be unlikely to ever forget.

  12. I couldn’t agree more. I am constantly watching and looking at what my kids are doing online. People get too comfortable in their homes. They think nothing can get them in their homes. They’re very wrong which is usually not seen until something they’ve said or done shows up online.. and then they’re floored.

  13. these are good things for those of us with little kids to hear…start thinking ahead….thanks for this post

  14. I feel bad for her, and I agree with all you said (even if Ihave trouble doing that stuff myself sometimes) because I know I wrote something bad about someone once, and it just made ME look dumb. I don’t know if they ever read it, at the time I was 19 and figured they wouldn’t, but I realise now that chances are good that they did. argh.

    Anyway. I’m just surprised she didn’t deny. I mean, it didn’t even look that much like her.

  15. I agree with your original post. I am a 31 year Christian, not married and without children. I am a kid at heart and most people think that I am 18-20 or in college. I don’t say that to brag… because, trust me, when people don’t take you seriously sometimes, thinking you are young, it can really stink. I mention it to say that it gives me an advantage to communicate with teens and relate to them a bit better than some. I also have an 11 year-old and twin 8-year-old nieces and can see how they deal with life. It TRULY is different from 12-16 years ago when I was that age. I cannot BELIEVE all that they can access and see… stuff that I didn’t have access to. YouTube is horrible for this. I use YouTube but am absolutely shocked that there isn’t screening PRIOR to a post on that site. Kids are exposed to SO much more adult material that they not knowingly mimic or try to duplicate and become more adult themselves. Someone, I do not know who, has taught my nieces how to dance… and they could be pole dancers as far as I am concerned… it’s disturbing.
    All that to say, as time goes by, children will be exposed to more and more… and it is up to us as mentors and parents to guide them on appropriate behavior so that it is genuine and not an act. Otherwise there is no control to what kids choose to absorb and determine right from wrong. I commend VH (and her advisors) for quickly admitting fault and do hope that more young stars think before they act, literally. I don’t know the truth behind the leak, but if it wasn’t passed via email, there are so many hackers out there now… I wouldn’t be surprised if someone just hacked into another’s computer and stole the image. It’s a scary world. Be involved with your kids 🙂 (WOW… sorry for the lengthy post… I couldn’t figure out how to edit it down)

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