Your Choices Will Change Your Life

Your Choices Will Change Your Life

by Susan Neuhalfen

I am glad I grew up at a time when social media wasn’t around,” quotes a popular Facebook meme. “I did so much stupid stuff and there’s no record of it anywhere.”

Yes, parents may rejoice in the fact that there were no camera phones or social media to record their every move, good or bad. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for today’s students.

“Your choices will change your life,” said Argyle attorney Rebecca Lively. “You are free to make any choices you want but you are not free to escape the consequences of those choices.”

Rebecca Lively Oehlers is a criminal defense attorney and Argyle mom. To keep her legal life and personal life separate, she’s Rebecca Lively, the lawyer, and Rebecca Oehlers, the wife and mom. She addressed the PTO at Argyle Middle School to discuss the choices that many kids make and the legal consequences that they face as a result.

She began with a discussion about social media. What may seem minor, is in many cases, considered a criminal offense today on social media.

For example, sending a message from another person’s social media account and leading the receiver to believe that it is from the owner of the account (without the owner’s permission) is considered online impersonation. If it is proven that it was done with the intent to harm or defraud anyone, then the “prankster” has committed an offense.

The message may be something as simple as bashing another student or talking about the size of one of the girls in class. It seems petty but it’s a Class A Misdemeanor which could mean up to a year in county jail.

“Just because you’re anonymous doesn’t mean you’re untraceable,” said Lively.

She then addressed sexting, which includes sending lewd images. This has changed from a felony to a misdemeanor for minors in Texas because lawmakers felt the punishment was harsh for young people. It was meant to give them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.

When it comes to sexting which includes sending naked pictures, if everyone involved is a minor (under 17), meaning the sender, the receiver, the picture taker and the subject(s), then no one involved will have to register as a sex offender. There will, however, be consequences including a fine, educational classes and the parents will have to appear in court ensuring their child attends the classes.

Once someone over the age of 18 is involved, all bets are off. Then it may be considered distribution, possession and/or promotion of child pornography and a host of other issues, all of which will get the involved registered as sex offenders.

“You know what the smarter thing to do is?” Lively continued. “Don’t do it.”

Lively said the best thing that parents can do is to keep an open dialogue with children and explain to them what the consequences may be when faced with the choices they make. She used examples like Johnny Manziel and Ethan Couch to make her point.

Then she urged the parents not to be so trusting of the kids.

Lively asked all parents to go to Google and do the following:
1) Google your child’s first and last name and check top ten sites
2) Google your child’s first and last name and check images
3) Google their first and last name with quotation marks (i.e. “first last”)
4) Google their first and last name followed by the city you live in
5) Google their first and last name followed by their school
6) Google their first middle and last name followed by public records
7) Google their email address

“Don’t just look at their phones, look at old iPads, computers, the cloud, all of the places where they could store pictures,” said Lively.

Lively says if you do the Google searches once a week, you’ll be amazed at what comes up. This is what colleges do. This is what employers do. This is where parents will find something they didn’t want to know but they need to know. Starting in elementary school, children form an online reputation and it stays with them.

“Once it’s online, it’s online forever,” said Lively. “It never goes away.”

Emphasize to your students that everything eventually is going to be public so hiding any apps, pictures or videos is fruitless.

The most important thing that Lively says is to remind your kids to be safe and smart.

“Make good choices,” said Lively to the students. “Don’t put yourself in a bad position. Step back and make the choice to do something else.”

WHILE CHECKING YOUR STUDENT’S PHONE, CHECK FOR THE FOLLOWING APPS:

Kik
• Allows anyone on the app to contact your student
• User only needs an email to get an account
• Based in Canada and not subject to U.S. sopoena power
Vine
• It has very crude humor
• It’s all public
Omegle
• Pairs you with another user at random
• They have an adult chat room and unmoderated chat room
• “Talk to Strangers” is their tagline
Whisper
• Anonymous
• Reveals your location
• Lots of dark information such as suicide, cutting, etc.
Snapchat
• Says it will delete in a matter of seconds, so kids do crazy things
• Snapchats are deleted after they are sent but users can take screen shots and can share be shared again
After School
• Cyberbullying, porn, sexting, drugs, bomb threats have comethrough site
• It’s anonymous so kids say horrible things to each other
• Police are constantly monitoring this site
Secret Calculator & Smart Hide Calculator
• It looks like a calculator app, but is designed to hide photos and videos
• Go to the App store and type in“secret calculator” to see if your student has downloaded it at any time.


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