In Others' WordsIn Others' Words

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cell phones and your kids: Sexting, anyone?

Teens with cell phones have taken texting to a whole new twisted level. High school students across the country are being charged with child pornography for texting nude or semi-nude photos of themselves.

~A 15-year-old girl from Mason, OH admitted in court to sending a nude photo of herself last month via a text message on her cell phone to another minor. The girl entered a plea of admission to contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

~Six Pennsylvania high school students faced child pornography charges after three teenage girls allegedly took nude or semi-nude photos of themselves and shared them with male classmates via their cell phones. All but one of the students accepted a lesser misdemeanor charge, partly to avoid a trial and further embarrassment, a public defender in the case said. The mother of one boy is considering fighting all charges.

~A 15-year-old girl in Newark, Ohio faced similar child pornography charges for sending her own racy cell phone photos to classmates. She eventually agreed to a curfew, no cell phone and no unsupervised Internet usage over the next few months. If she complies, the charges will be dropped.

A survey by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, in conjuction with, found that 1 in 5 teens admits to sending out digital nude or semi-nude photos of themselves.

The online survey of 1,280 teens and young adults also found:

~About 22 percent of teen girls, including 11 percent of those between the ages of 13 and 16, and 18 percent of teen boys say they’ve shared racy photos of themselves and these racy images are also getting passed around

~33 percent of teen boys and 25 percent of teen girls say they have had nude/semi-nude images -- originally meant to be private -- shared with them

~15 percent of teens who have sent sexually suggestive content such as text messages, email, photographs or video say they have done so with someone they only know online

The questions being raised by parents, teens, and the courts are: Should these teens be charged with child pornography? Should their names be put on sex offenders' lists? Or is this something parents should handle with their kids--and should the courts butt out?

I tend to take a hard-line approach to this kind of misbehavin'. I've never understood the "three-strikes-your-out" approach to drunk driving. Why don't we take a person's driver's license and hand down a stiffer sentence the first time someone is caught driving drunk?

I don't think sending someone naked photos via your cell phone is childish behavior, either. Parents, we need to step up the the plate and be involved with our kids lives. What does that mean? Don't assume everything is a-okay as far as what they're watching on YouTube, what they're posting on their MySpace page, and what they're texting to their friends.

Check out My Mobile Watchdog, which safeguards your child's cell phone by immediately alerting you if he or she receives unapproved email, text messages or phone calls.



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