Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tough Laws for Sexting

Reuters via
A 2009 survey by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children found that:
  • 19% of teens surveyed had sent, received, or forwarded sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude photos through text message or e-mail.
  • Of the teens surveyed who had engaged in “sexting,” 60% sent the photos to a boyfriend/girlfriend
  • 11% sent them to someone they did not know
That was then. Could numbers are higher in 2012?

Sending sexually explicit photos can lead to a lifetime of embarrassment and shame, and possibly even graver consequences. Some teens have resorted to suicide after nude photos of themselves were leaked to the students in their school. summarizes two of these sad stories:
- In Ohio, 18-year-old Jessica Logan hanged herself in the bedroom of her Cincinnati home in July 2009, after her boyfriend forwarded a nude photo she sent him to pals. The image got passed along to more and more people until hundreds of students at at least seven area schools received it.
- In Tampa, 13-year-old Hope Witsell killed herself after a sexted photo of herself got sent around her middle school. Her death followed daily harassment from classmates who called her "whore" and "slut." School authorities reacted to the incident by suspending Hope for the first week of eighth grade. Like Jessica Logan, she hanged herself in her bedroom.
Now state and local governments are working to curb sexting. Police in Belmont, North Carolina are providing educational sessions on the dangers of sexting and social media. In North Carolina, using your smart phone to send, or receive and keep, a sexually explicit photo on your phone can lead to a conviction as a sex offender, charge them with child pornography, and time spent in jail.

Legislators in New Hampshire and South Carolina are proposing new bills that make sexting a criminal act separate from child pornography crimes. Those who oppose new laws against sexting say that punishments for these acts go too far, and can ruin a young life for years to come.

Regardless of the personal or legal consequences, teens need to know what can happen if they send, receive or forward sexually explicit messages, photos or videos. Open communication with parents can be the first line of defense against being a victim or perpetrator.

Common Sense Media offers advice to parents on the issue (quoted directly from the site):
    • Don’t wait for an incident to happen to your child or your child’s friend before you talk about the consequences of sexting.
    • Remind your kids that once an image is sent, it can never be retrieved -- and they will lose control of it.
    • Talk about pressures to send revealing photos
    • Teach your children that the buck stops with them. If someone sends them a photo, they should delete it immediately. It’s better to be part of the solution than the problem. Besides, if they do send it on, they're distributing pornography -- and that’s against the law.
    • Check out It’s a fabulous site that gives kids the language and support to take texting and cell phone power back into their own hands. It’s also a great resource for parents who are uncomfortable dealing directly with this issue.

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