It has been all over the news recently. I was listening to an NPR show a few days ago that featured the topic and talk shows are running segments, all warning us of "sexting".
Sexting is sending naked, semi naked or sexually oriented pictures of oneself (or someone else) over a cell phone. And teenagers are sending them out in droves.
Not only are they sending them to friends, but the friends are then resending them, downloading them to websites and emailing them out en masse.
What's the problem, here, in addition to the obvious? Teens who are sending them can be charged with distribution of pornography, child pornography, harassment and other serious offenses.
Girls are major offenders in this arena. Six girls in Pennsylvania, ages 14 and 15 have been charged with distribution of child pornography and the older boys they sent the pictures to are being charged with possession of such.
These are consequences that will change a person's life forever, deciding what work they will do, where they can live and with whom.
While many believe these laws too rigid, considering the circumstances, the law takes time to catch up with technology; there may be cause to change the charges, due to the circumstances. But child pornography is still child pornography - no matter who is involved.
Why are America's teens obsessed with sending each other pictures of their naked bodies? One teen on a talk show felt that after receiving a naked photo on her phone from a grown man, it was only polite to send one back. Young logic, eh?
A recent survey of more than 1200 teens by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that 20% had sent sexually explicit pictures of themselves via their cellphones.
Those who are not being charged with these felonies are risking that these pictures will be distributed worldwide, causing long term and perhaps permanent consequences.
Why on earth would anyone take this kind of risk?
A variety of reasons, from exhibitionism and a risk-taking high, to peer pressure and the hyper-sexualization of our society - and our children.
Parents can help by disallowing their children to have cell phones, or at minimum cell phones with cameras. Checking cell phone bills can help a parent investigate what the phones are being used for - and there are security options that allow texts, videos and pictures to be copied and sent to a parent's email account. Firm discipline and accountability can't hurt either.
Does this infringe on a kid's privacy? It might. As a parent, should we care?
A parent's job is to protect her child - sometimes from him or herself. When he or she is an adult, he or she can have all the privacy the laws afford! Until then, what they do, say and text, is very much our business.
Are you aware of the "sexting" craze? Will it change your views on your children having cell phones and how they use them?
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