We recently visited a public school and spoke to a group of Junior High students ages 13-14 about the dangers of sexting. When we asked the girls in the room how many of them ever had a boy ask them to send a provocative or nude photo of themselves over their phones, we were shocked to see nearly half of the hands in the room go up (and those were just the ones bold enough to respond).
No doubt technology has dramatically changed the way some teens communicate and flirt with one another today. Unfortunately, some sexting cases have gained national attention as seemingly harmless flirtations have turned into devastating ordeals both emotionally and legally.
What may shock teens (and parents) alike are the legal consequences of sexting.
Each state handles sexting offenses differently and many states are still waking up to the true dangers of sexting in relation to child pornography, cyber bullying, extortion, and teen suicide. However, in many states, minors caught with nude or semi nude photos (of a minor) on their phones can be charged with possession of child pornography (or ‘distribution of’ if they send a photo)—even if the images are of themselves. Some states have passed legislation charge sexting minors as felony sex offenders.
What you can do:
Educate your kids. The legal ramifications, while seemingly foreign to teens, are very real as is the weight of a felony offense. This is a great video to sit and watch together that reinforces the reality of sexting.
Know the law. Every state varies in its degree of enforcement but every state does have some form of sexting law in place. You can check your state law on this cool map.
Keep the conversation real. Remind your child that sending any sexual photo is prohibited—no matter how much they trust the person on the receiving end.
Control your images. Remind your child that once an image leaves her phone, she loses all control over that image . . . forever. There are no “take backs” or “do overs” on the Internet.
Delete all photos. Insist your child delete any inappropriate photo she may have on her phone. And, if she receives a nude photo, have her immediately delete it.
Just say ‘no!’ If your son or daughter is asked to send a provocative photo, the only answer is they need to give is ‘no.’