As if sexting were not bad enough, teens now also practice SWATing (or swatting). Unlike so many other teen pranks, this behavior can land your teens in prison for years, not months. Do you know what your youngsters and their cell phones are up to?
SWATing (or swatting) is the practice of using a throw-away cell phone and a computer connection to convince a 911 operator that a bona fide caller is reporting a real emergency. Sadly, it is one of the dangerous pranks that teens like to pull now. NBC Los Angeles reports that teens use the computer connection to make the emergency dispatch believe that they are calling from a real, traceable phone number.
SWATters then report an allegedly ongoing violent crime or pose as a homicidal caller who is about to commit a murder-suicide. At times these teens go so far as to report hostage situations. Teens also use SWATing as a means of exacting revenge against peers and others; ABC reports that an unsuspecting family suddenly faced a home invasion of SWAT team members who responded to a – what they believed to be genuine – case of filicide (child murder).
From Sexting to SWATing
If sexting could put teens at risk for prosecution on kiddie porn charges, swatting can land your teens in prison for three to five years. The FBI reports that SWATing is not a new occurrence. There is plenty of precedent that supports lengthy prison sentences and also fiscal ramifications for convicted pranksters.
PC World explains that one SWATing teen faced charges including “unauthorized computer access” and “assault by proxy”. Due to the computer tie-in, the odds are good that teens involved in these pranks may also face hacking charges. What should have parents worry is the assertion by Orange County Sheriff Department officials who call the techniques used to pull off swatting pranks as requiring no “special skills.”
So What’s a Parent to Do?
It is interesting to note that even teens from so-called “good” families can easily get caught up in SWATing. These teens may go along to get along with their peers or simply not realize what swatting really is until they are in the midst of a call. Prank phone calls are a time-honored rite of passage and even if you can convince your teens to keep on their clothes and avoid sexting of any kind, warnings against this prank might have slipped a parent’s mind.
Consider sitting down with your teens and discussing swatting calls from beginning to end. Rather than preaching, talk through the different scenarios. For example, the families who faced SWAT team members might have reacted in fright (thinking that there were prowlers outside) and exited the home with a gun. This could have led to a shootout and deaths. Only when teens understand the true ramifications of their pranks – and also the far-reaching consequences of a SWATing call gone badly – is there any hope to nip this practice in the bud.