While the word sexting is a new phenomenon for most adults, the reality is that this trend seems to be catching on among teens across the country. While society may seem to be inventing new words all the time to describe the new trends (and make them seem harmless) the real truth is that sexting can be dangerous and certainly carries with it some harsh consequences. It is crucial that teens and their parents are aware of the ramifications from engaging in this behavior.
Sexting is being used to describe sending sexual pictures or messages via text or picture messages. Often these pictures or messages, despite being meant for only a particular person, are then being shared with other cell phone users. Many times the pictures are eventually downloaded and shared on the Internet where it becomes almost impossible to stop them.
Part of the reason that this has gotten so much coverage is that there have been some high profile cases involving teens. Both boys and girls across the country are being charged with felonies. Prosecutors recently charged six teenagers with creating, distributing, and possessing child pornography. The three girls, ages fourteen and fifteen, took nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves and e-mailed them to friends.
While some may feel that the charges were a pretty harsh reaction, it is important to understand that this is not a totally isolated case. While many people are simply uncomfortable with teen expressions of sexuality, others feel that any crossing of the boundaries into pornography should be prosecuted. And while the fact that a recent study found that the threat to kids from pedophiles lurking online was pretty minor, there is a fear that somehow a sexual predator could come across pictures of minors and use them for illicit purposes.
Whatever your feeling concerning the legalities of the situation, there are some pretty good reasons not to text or email naked pictures of yourself to others, no matter how close you are, and even if you are in a serious relationship. Here are just a few of the reasons:
• Teens are especially unconscious of the fact that once you hit send, the contents of your message are out of your control. Your picture could be forwarded, saved or posted at any time now or in the future.
• Teens should understand that if they break-up with a partner, or get into a fight with a friend, that person could share their picture with other people as a form of revenge. There have been several instances of this lately.
• Teens have very short term attention spans and may not understand that though they might feel comfortable sharing a naked picture with someone today, they might feel really differently tomorrow.
• Teens may not understand that “sexting” can get you in a lot of trouble, both with your parents, and in some cases, even with the law! Teens need to be warned about the consequences of this type of behavior.
• Teens may not realize that their or others’ reputations can be scarred for life.
There are specific actions that parents can take as well. Some of these include:
• Parents should report any inappropriate images they find on their children’s cell phones to police.
• Parents need to set clear rules about the children’s proper behavior and expectations in using their cell phones. Parents should feel comfortable asking the teens to have their phones checked for inappropriate texting or sexting.
• Parents and schools should explain to the teens that once something is posted on the Internet, they can not change their mind and get it back. Anything that is posted can haunt them for life and can be seen by anyone years in the future (potential college recruiters, future employers, etc.)
Advice given in this article is not meant to replace professional legal advice.