If you haven’t heard, the latest trend in teens and technology is “sexting.” This is where they take provocative pictures of themselves and send them to their boyfriend, girlfriend, or whoever. The Sunday Morning News on CBS did a story on this and the legalities are still being hashed out.
One nineteen year old named Alpert has to spend twenty years on the sex offender list because he sent his girlfriend’s nude picture, after they broke up, to his buddies. Because he was 18, he was charged as an adult with possessing and distributing child pornography. With the 76 counts, he could have spent the rest of his life in jail. He was thrown out of his local community college and gets approached regularly by neighbors to see whether or not he is a threat to area children.
Civil liberties attorney Larry Walters, said he was “floored” when he read about Alpert’s story. Walters is now trying to help Alpert get off the sex offender list. “We’re dealing with kids exchanging photos of themselves in sexually explicit positions, and that is in my view a social problem, just like teen sexual activity,” Walters told Braver, the CBS reporter. Walters believes that the criminal justice system is not the proper vehicle to deal with something like that. I agree, but if you depend on some parents to do the job, nothing will get done. There are states offering classes that would cost them $100 each. These classes are five sessions to get across the dangers of sexting. It’s either this or face felony charges.
A recent survey shows that sexting is very common teenage behavior. Bill Albert of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy said, “We found, surprisingly, that one in five teens, and one in three young adults, freely admitted that they have sexted these nude or semi-nude images on the Internet or sent them via their cell phone.”
Albert said about the same number of boys and girls have posted nude photos of themselves. Also, eleven percent of teenage girls age 13 to 16 have sexted. To translate: Your seventh grader could be sending nude pictures of herself. Want to know if your child is doing this? Pick up their phone. You pay the bill, don’t you? You might not find the pics but you may find texts that say, “Did she send it yet?” “Have you seen it?” Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
Our young men need to realize that life and sex are not like what they watch on late night HBO. Girls are not here for their entertainment. Girls themselves need to realize that getting attention by sexting a guy (85% believe this is why it happens) will only lead to the wrong kind of attention. The kind of attention that can lead to severe depression and even suicide. In Ohio, Jessica Logan’s family believes she killed herself after her former boyfriend allegedly forwarded nude photos she’d sent him. This isn’t harmless fun. Sex, and all things connected to it, can scar deeply.
While 67% of teenagers believe sexting is dangerous, Albert doubts that they really grasp the long-term consequences. I doubt it too. Their brains don’t function like that yet. Albert describes it as a sort of cyber-tattoo; it’s on the net and you won’t be able to get rid of it.
Whether something is on the Hello Kitty phone or not, talk to your teen about the proper use of the cell phone and especially of their bodies. Waiting is much better.