A local high school teacher was added to the sex-offender registry after sending suggestive messages to two students. Nude photos and sexual messages are too common in the inboxes of teenagers. Police report dealing with an increasing number of cases.
According to a survey by the National Campaign to Support Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 20 percent of teens have sent nude or semi-nude photos of themselves to a boyfriend or girlfriend, or posted them online. And 39 percent have sent sexually suggestive messages.
Patricia Dailey Lewis from the Delaware Department of Justice wrote,
“The number of teens and children who engage in inappropriate sexting and texting is shocking. These behaviors can be evidence of sexual exploitation, harassment, bullying and teen dating violence. The results of this teenage behavior can be devastating and have lifetime consequences.”
What it is
Sexting involves tweens or teens sending sexually suggestive photos via cell phone or social networking site. The image a teen takes and sends to one friend can easily be forwarded to a few others and end up on the Internet. Cases are difficult to handle, hard to prosecute and impossible to control.
It is an exploding phenomenon. Ludacris, the rap artist, even wrote a song about it. And with the development of some private sites, it can be done easily and anonymously.
What you can do
Even if they don’t do a lot of talking on the phone, teens can be involved in sexting. Whether you view it as high-tech flirting or child pornography, these images can easily appear in a broader arena, and teens caught sexting can be prosecuted under very serious charges. Some states have discussed legislation to deal with sexting and some have already enacted laws.
Watch what’s going on
Review your teen’s phone on a regular basis. Parents who start early can have this accepted as a regular parental responsibility. Your teen won’t like it … but you’re the parent.
Talk to your teen
Discuss the dangers of sexting, how images can get out of hand, and the legal consequences of participating.
It’s not private or anonymous
Forty percent of teens say they have had a “private” suggestive message shown to them, and 20 percent say they have shared such a message with someone. And even if someone only knows you by your e-mail address or online profile, he or she can find out a whole lot more with a little effort.
It doesn’t go away
Things you send or post can stay out there for a long time. Others, including college recruiters and potential employers, can access the images or information you post.
Don’t give in.
Peer pressure is a big reason why many teens engage in sexting. It’s not a good enough reason.
Do not underestimate the level or seriousness of sexting. It can have legal and psychological consequences. Negative consequences preserved in cyberspace can last a lifetime, affecting the quality of one’s life and diminishing a promising future.