Word Badger: Lost in the techno-fog? Me too

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

If you're like me, you hear about the latest cellphone app or other digital thingamajig and do a double-take.

It's the kind of double-take you do when you're standing at the side of the road and a car speeds by so fast that you can't tell what kind it was.

This happened yesterday when I talked to the Janesville Police Department about a sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl. The girl had been communicating with the 20-year-old man using her smart phone for about two weeks, and she agreed to meet him. Read the story here if you like.

The point is, they were communicating using a smart phone app called Kik. This is a text-messaging app that lets you send out a message to other users saying something like, “this is me. I'd like to chat with somebody.”

Kik also allows you to post photos, and it appears from the small amount of research I've done so far that many people post photos of themselves and invite strangers to contact them, and this often takes on sexual overtones.

In other words, Kik can lead to the kind of text messaging that is called sexting.

Again, if you're like me, you're not very pleased at adding “sexting” to your lexicon.

Sexting is just fine if done between consenting adults, in my opinion, but even then, what if you get a divorce or break up with this person? What if the breakup is ugly? Could your ex post your amorous messages – and photos – online somewhere, or send them to his friends? Given the way these new technologies work, that's a genie you can't put back in the bottle.

Dear readers, some of you no doubt know more about these emerging technologies than I do. I'd love to hear your advice for parents, for young people, or even for aging newspaper reporters who started their careers on manual typewriters.

How do you keep up with all of this, especially when the young people around you know so much more about this stuff? Feel free to express your frustrations, but if you have practical advice, please share that, too.



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