Most cell phones now have the capacity to take at least digital still photos, and many can also take short video clips as well. Data plans make it possible for cell phone users to e-mail those photos and videos or post them on social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook, and that has put a whole new spin on the age-old practice of “you show me yours and I’ll show you mine.”
Teens are sending nude and semi-nude photos and videos of themselves to other teen cell phone users. Teens using somewhat more restraint may not be sending photos, but rather, texting sexually explicit messages to peers. This has become known as “sexting.”
The calls I’m getting from parents are generally the mortified parents of teen girls who have discovered that their little angel has sent nude photos of herself to her latest crush in an effort to get his attention over other girls.
Now, if it were just a matter of a gal sending a provocative photo to a boy she likes, it would probably not be getting the attention it is now receiving. However, sexting carries with it several huge problems that teens rarely anticipate.
The first is how easy it is for the receiver to forward the image to others. Once the recipient launches that image back into cyberspace, there is absolutely no telling where it will go. I have already heard stories of fathers receiving the objectionable images of their daughters, e-mailed to their cell phones by either jilted boyfriends, mischievous peers, worried friends, or seriously remorseful receivers of such media.
Dads, can you imagine being at work and getting a text message, and when you open it up, it’s nude pictures of your daughter? I have heard that scenario more than once. This month.
Gals, imagine that the sexy photo you sent to your heartthrob somehow manages to end up on your dad’s phone? Could you ever even look at your dad again? And, of course, let’s say the photos don’t make it to your dad. How about just your whole graduating class or the school principal?
The other enormous consequence is that many states still consider this type of nude image to be child pornography and if a youngster has such images on his cell phone, he can be charged with possession of child pornography and labeled a sex offender for the rest of his life. Yes, just for a revealing photo of his sweetheart, your son can be forced to register as a sex offender everywhere he ever lives. And, not just the recipient, either. The sender of the photo can be charged with distributing child pornography, still currently a felony in many states.
Talk to your kids today about sexting and the life-long serious and mortifying consequences it can have. No matter how much they trust their current crush, those images, one sent, cannot be unsent and could result in criminal charges.
Dr. Marlo Archer is a licensed psychologist specializing in working with kids, teens, and their families. She can be reached at www.DrMarlo.com or 480-705-5007. Follow Down To Earth Enterprises on Facebook or DrMarloArcher on Twitter.