One of the newer trends with teens (and pre-teens) is ‘sexting’. This is where someone takes a picture (or video) of him or herself and transmits it to someone else electronically. This is usually as a text message to a cellphone, hence the term ‘sexting’ which is a combination of the words ‘sex’ and ‘texting’.
The picture is usually sexual in nature and shows parts of their body, or actions, that they would not normally display in person. Most of the time the sender thinks it is exciting and fun and is used as a way to explore their sexuality, the fact that they are ‘not just a kid’, or as proof of their ‘love’ for the other person.
The sender does not think about the fact that these pictures are now permanently stored somewhere. They don’t think about the fact that the person who receives the picture can forward it on to others, by mistake, to brag, or as a way to humiliate the sender when the two have a fight or end their relationship, often laughing and thinking about what a joke it will be.
But they aren’t laughing when the police charge them with the production and/or distribution of child pornography and the possibility of being a registered sex offender!
Child pornography laws were developed to protect the children of our society, and at the time the laws were written, nobody imagined that the children would be producing the pictures on their own. Most people think that in order to be convicted of producing or distributing child pornography you need to be a ‘dirty old man’. That is not true. The statutes don’t say that the producer or distributor must be over the age of 18, male or anything else. It is the act of production or distribution that defines the crime, not the description of the person doing the act.
The children may not be aware of what they are really doing and they probably have no idea of the legal problems that they are starting. And yes, you can be found guilty of producing and distributing child pornography when the pictures are of yourself!
How can parents help? By talking to their children about the proper and improper use of cell phones and taking pictures (or videos) of themselves. By monitoring the cell phone usage of their children.
We talk to our kids about drugs and smoking and the long term dangers associated with those actions.
We also need to talk to them about other dangers in growing up in our society.
Most of our kids are not aware that ‘sexting’ can lead to being ordered to be a registered sex offender. Or that being a registered sex offender means you can’t get a room in a dorm at college. Or that they won’t be able to pick their own kids up at schools because sex offenders are not allowed on school grounds.
As parents, we need to make sure our kids know that the excitement they get from ‘sexting’ is just not worth the possible repercussions!