Sexting involves sending nude or semi-nude photos via text message.
In the past month, Fullerton Police discovered “sexted” photos on the cell phones of three different underage boys, including a junior high school student who was allegedly molested by a teacher. Last week in a separate incident, police found at least two nude photos of an underage girl on the phone of a 12-year-old boy.
The law is clear, says Sgt. Jeff Stuart. Disseminating the photos – via text, email or social media to a minor – or possessing the photos is a crime.
“From a personal standpoint, kids need to understand the following: Even though your boyfriend/girlfriend asks you to share such images and promises to keep them private, as we’ve seen so many times, that rarely happens,” Stuart said. “Images may come back to haunt you later in life as they may be accessible to your family members, significant others, employers and in some cases, even your children. Consider the consequences of your actions before you choose to act.”
What can parents and families do?
“Don’t be afraid to talk to your kids. Chances are, they may already be aware of this practice, and talking to them about it reinforces the message,” Stuart said.
Peer pressure can lead to bad decisions, Stuart said, so let them know the following:
- Don’t take photos or allow photos to be taken of you that you wouldn’t want to see on the Internet or wouldn’t want your parents seeing
- Know that if you send or forward a nude photo of a minor, you could face criminal charges
- Immediately report any photos you receive to authorities
Stuart encouraged parents to monitor their children’s cell phones, email and social media accounts. There is software parents can install that allows parents to monitor from anywhere.
“There have been occasions where if parents had been monitoring their child’s technology, they might have seen an inappropriate relationship developing before the actual abuse occurred,” he said.
A study found that 20 percent of teenagers sent naked or semi-nude photos or posted them on-line, according to a July 2010 FBI study.
Another study found that one in six children ages 12-17 have sent or received nude photos via text message. The consequences can be dire. In one case, an 18-year-old high school graduate committed suicide after a nude photos was transmitted to hundreds of former classmates.
“As a parent of two Junior High School aged sons, I worry about the things that they are exposed to, but by talking to them and helping them understand the consequences of poor decisions, I can better equip them to make good ones,” Stuart said.