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The consequences of sexting

Earlier this year, the New York Times ran a front page article on sexting, which should be compulsory reading for all middle school students and their parents. It describes in harrowing detail how one momentary lapse of judgment by an eighth-grade student at a school in Olympia, WA snowballed out of control, until it became a full-scale crisis involving hundreds of students, parents, police, and local prosecutors.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the whole story is how quickly events unfolded, and how easy it is to imagine the exact same scenario taking place in any community around the country: boy dates girl; girl sends boy nude picture; boy-girl split up; boy shares picture with another girl with a grudge; girl with grudge shares picture with every contact on her cell phone.

Just like that, lives are ruined. In the Olympia case, dozens of students were interviewed by the police and three were charged with disseminating child pornography, but not before the nude picture had been circulated to hundreds and possibly thousands of cell phones. A year and two school transfers later, the picture still trails the girl wherever she goes. No-one knows how many times it has been uploaded to the Internet and how many times it has been seen on Facebook and MySpace.

Think it could never happen to your child? Think again. Surveys have shown that one in five 14- to 17-year-olds have been involved in some type of naked sexting – either sending images of themselves or receiving them from other people. That means if your daughter is at a slumber party with 10 friends, it’s virtually guaranteed that someone will bring up the idea of sexting.

And the type of school and average income of the parents have nothing to do with it. Some of the highest profile cases of sexting in the past two years have originated in fee-paying schools in Connecticut and Washington, D.C.

Reaction to the Times’ article covers the full spectrum, from sympathy to outrage. Many parents have criticized the heavy-handedness of local law enforcement, wondering why police and prosecutors are involved in what should be a matter for parents and school authorities. That theory is fine until it’s your child’s picture that is circulating on the Internet.

Of course, schools and law-enforcement can only do so much. They are not an antidote for hyper-active hormones and the peer-pressure that reassures your teen that “everyone else is doing it.” At that moment they have to fall back on the sound advice they got from mom or dad, and trust the gut feeling that tells them “this is wrong.”

Better have that talk sooner rather than later.

Have you spoken to your child about sexting? How did you start the conversation? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!

Comment by Milknut, posted 1/19/2013, 12:34 AM:

Yeah, "virtually guaranteed?" That doesn't make sense statistically and doesn't pass the common sense test, either. It's a real issue, scare tactics don't work.
Comment by Paul, posted 12/27/2012, 3:58 PM:

TruthLocker is only available for Android phones at this time http://www.truthlocker.com/
Comment by P Millerq, posted 12/18/2012, 2:48 PM:

Paul, I am trying to find the app you named as TruthLocker but cannot find it within the app store for Apple....can you give me some direction please.....PM
Comment by Cheyanne Stidham, posted 12/10/2012, 10:21 AM:

I seen many pictures being sent. I have a problem with it. Kids shouldnt be exposed to it. You, as parents, should talk to your children about the dnager of this and what can happen to them. You can't trust anyone anymore. NOBODY.
Comment by Paul, posted 10/25/2012, 1:22 PM:

One smartphone app every family should have as a backup plan and a way to establish accountability. TruthLocker. It saves texts, photos, Facebook and Twitter to a private and secure website that capturing even deleted texts in real-time. Best investment ever.
Comment by Cynthia, posted 8/6/2012, 12:31 AM:

Just like the concept of "keys in the bucket" at a party to avoid drinking and driving, it sounds like a good idea to require "all cell phones in the basket" at a kids' sleep over just to avoid that from happening. I remember being a kid and, yes, that would be a ripe situation for those type of shenanigans.
Comment by Mayerlyn Cordero, posted 12/5/2011, 1:46 PM:

Para que los vayamos preparando.
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