Recently E-School News published the article Teen ‘sexting’: Less Common than Parents, Educators Might Fear. The article discusses the current statistics about 'Sexting' (the electronic transmission of nude or semi nude pictures usually via cellphone). Essentially the article states that Sexting is not as serious as teachers and parents think.
The study is based on a survey of 1,560 children, 10 to 17 years old, who use the internet. I challenge the validity of these findings based on the age range involved. As of right now, the study states that slightly more than 7 percent of children participating in this study have received, sent or taken inappropriate pictures of themselves or others. I speculate if the focus of the group was reduced to only include high school age students this percentage would sharply increase.
Upon reading the article I did my own research ( aka: asking my students) about their knowledge about kids that participate in Sexting. My results revealed about 70% of my students in one class know of sexted images circulating. In previous years I have gone so far to conduct my own surveys and collect data. Once High School begins, the Sexting numbers rise. I do agree, with one assertion of the study; that promiscuous teens are more likely to engage in Sexting than more conservative teens. I suggest that we all keep in mind that even teens who are rational and not promiscuous can be pressured into sexting.
What parents need to know:
How does Sexting effect teens? A 'Sext' is most often used as relationship currency between boys and girls. It is usually a girl who is seeking to win the affection of a boy or to keep the interest of a boyfriend. As with the case of Jessie Logan, she sent a Sext of herself to a boyfriend. Upon breaking up, the boy spread the picture of Jessie around her High School. Jessie was taunted mercilessly because of the picture, but she persevered through High School and graduated. Sadly, when Jessie made it to college, she found the sext had circulated there as well and she took her life.
The Legal Issue:
Beyond the horrible repercussions that people like Jessie suffer, there are legal ramifications to Sexting as well. First, anytime a teen under the age of 18 takes a nude or partially nude picture of them selves- in the eyes of the law that teen is now in the possession of child pornography. If that teen 'sexts' that picture to anyone else, he or she has now trafficked child pornography.
For example, child pornography charges were brought against six teenagers in Pennsylvania in January 2009 after three girls sent sexually explicit photographs to three male classmates. A More troubling fact is that teens who are charged with possession and trafficking child pornography from Sexting, will most likely be labeled a sex offender for the rest of their lives.
So, perhaps the study mentioned by E-School News is correct and Sexting is not as pervasive as once thought. Regardless, Sexting is a very real issue that already has robbed teens of their reputation and lives. I strongly suggest that all parents sit down with their teens and discuss Sexting and its ramifications.
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