Sexting: A Parent’s Guide to Keeping Your Kids Safe
- Monday, April 06, 2009
What is Sexting?
Very simply, sexting is a play on the term “texting” and is applied to the action of sending semi-nude or nude photos to others on a cell phone, or posting these types of pictures online.
Why do Kids Sext?
The dynamics at play when teens sext are varied. Many factors in any combination such as a need for attention, the desire to be recognized, peer-pressure, flirtation, new teen dating rituals, proof of commitment in a relationship, raging hormones, following the example of noted teen celebrities, adolescent risk-taking, and immaturity can be involved in a teen’s decision to sext.
Know the Danger of Digital Photos in Cyberspace.
Many kids don’t have the maturity to intuitively know or think through the consequences of distributing digital photos electronically. This is a key area that parents can have influence with their kids, by educating them of the dangers associated with sexting.
One of the reasons I love digital photography so much is that the photos are so easy to distribute. When I’m out on the road, I can snap a quick photo and send it immediately to family and friends back home. Nifty! We can take photos on our cell phones, and immediately send them to others. We can upload photos to our computers, post them to websites and deliver them via email. It’s just so easy – and if you are like me – you love the ease of distribution too. But, this ease is exactly what has opened the door to a dark side.
Once a digital photo makes it out into Cyberspace, there’s no way to guarantee that another person (particularly those with a little tech-savvy) can’t get their hands on the photo, not to mention distribute it. And, once released into Cyberspace it’s possible that for better or for worse, it’s out there forever!
Now if we’re talking about a photo of my recently seeded lawn that I emailed to my brother, well that’s no big deal. If someone in Cyberspace really wants it, they can have it! Yet, what about the picture of your daughter that a friend took on her cell phone at that sleepover last weekend when they were being silly (in their underwear) at 2:00 a.m.? And, let’s assume that the friend quickly sent it to some other peers in her phone’s address book with no malicious intent, but just to be funny? That’s sexting! In this scenario, the dangers of easy distribution quickly becomes simple to define.
Understand the Consequences of Sexting.
Certainly not all kids who have sent a sext or have received one will experience consequences. But, the truth is that sexting can have devastating consequences. For the teen whose inappropriate photo was passed along to friends, peers, teachers, and strangers, the damage can be devastating. It can even be a matter of life and death. An example is the story of Jesse Logan. Jesse, a high school student in Cincinnati, suffered vicious bullying and harassment by peers after the boyfriend she had broken up with, sexted a nude photo of her to other girls at the high school where she attended. In July, 2008, Jesse hanged herself in her bedroom closet, her cell phone laying on the middle of the floor.
On the other side of the spectrum, teens who distribute sexts to others are in danger of finding themselves in serious trouble with the law.
Phillip Alpert, a Florida teen, turned to sexting when his former girlfriend insulted him. In turn, he sent nude photos she had taken of herself and had sent to him when they were dating to 70 people. Alpert was arrested, charged, convicted, and given probation for distributing child pornography. He is now a registered sex offender, a moniker he will carry with him until he is at least 43 years of age. Weekly, he has to meet with a group of other sex offenders, largely rapists and child molesters.
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