Many parents may be caught off guard when they first hear the term “sexting”. With all of the dangers facing teens today there is another one to add to the list. “Sexting” is the act of sending a sexually explicit photo and/or video message via a cell phone. These are situations in which kids are taking inappropriate pictures of themselves or friends and then sharing them via cell phone.
While some may say, “Oh that’s just a fourteen-year old boy doing what fourteen-year old boys do.” Every adult should understand that it’s a lot more serious than that. One of the first things to understand is that once this begins kids will send/share the photo via cell phones to their friends and before you know it, an entire school can be aware of what has happened. In addition there’s a good chance someone will post the picture(s) via the Internet. Once that happens, it will be virtually impossible to stop. Everyone should understand that anything can happen with the picture from there.
It is also important to be clear on the fact that if your child is caught sharing an inappropriate picture of him/herself or is caught sharing a photo of someone else, they can be charged with child pornography. They will be listed as a sex offender, a title that will stay with them for life. Whether a judge will decide on that harsh of a treatment for a thirteen to fifteen-year old boy or girl is, of course, up to the court and how much of an example it wants to set for others.
This trend seems to be running rampant as teenagers from middle to high school are being caught sexting. Many schools are even posting letters on their school web sites informing parents of sexting incidents and asking that parents take an active part in talking to their children about the dangers of this practice.
It is also important to stress that this is not a practice that is exclusively done by boys. Girls across the country are facing felony charges and may have to register as a sex offenders for allegedly taking nude photos of themselves and sending them via cell phone. Many of these girls thought they were sending these pictures privately to their boyfriends.
It is also important to understand that there is a totally false perception among juveniles that there is no risk to this. They need to understand that once the picture is taken and sent, it gives anyone who receives it the ability to do anything with it, forever. Teens need to understand that if a picture of you found its way onto the Internet, that’s going to haunt you, potentially forever.
Additionally, there is a relationship dynamic attached to this as some teens have been charged with child pornography for allegedly posting nude photos of ex-girlfriends on the Internet. One boy told the authorities that the girl had sent him the pictures and he posted them on the Internet in revenge for breaking off the relationship. Authorities report that they are seeing more and more of these incidents.
So this leads many to ask what can the schools and parents do to help stop this? Here are some suggestions:
• Schools need to inform the parents of their student body of this type of increasing behavior. (Parents should also talk to their school’s administration about this!)
• Schools need to conduct assemblies or other seminars/classes for the kids to let them know that this is not just harmless fun. Ideally, schools should invite someone from the law enforcement community to address the students and inform them now that this behavior is a felony and what the legal ramifications can be.
• Parents need to talk openly to their children about the risks involved.