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  • Sexting: Balancing the Law, Teens, Technology and Choices

     

    Sexting is the act of taking and sending sexually explicit photos electronically, primarily through cell phones. This is a serious challenge facing today’s youth. Young people fail to recognize the danger of sending intimate photos electronically. Photos are easily shared but impossible to retract. In addition to having potentially destructive social and legal consequences, sexting is a crime and may be the most under-reported criminal activity among teens.

    Taking a naked "selfie" and sharing it with one friend may seem harmless; however, these photos are often shared with friends and friends of friends, or may be posted on social media. The teen in the photo has no control over who sees the photo or where it may end up. Sexting can haunt them later in life by resurfacing during a college or employment application process.

    Cheezo and Sexting

    The current law is designed for charging sexual predators, not youth engaged in sexting. Cheezo has developed the Sexting Solutions program to address underlying issues that lead to sexting. The six week program helps build boundaries and self-esteem. Parents must participate in the first and last session. Children never think the trusted friend or boyfriend to whom the explicit photos were sent would ever pass them on, but they do. Once photos are sent from a cell phone they are not retrievable from cyberspace. Even deleting the photo or video may not be enough.  

    Sexting is illegal if the photographed person is under 18 years of age. It is illegal to possess the naked pictures, and an even more serious offense to send them or post them online. Sexting can result in criminal charges and sex offender registration.

    Sextortion

    Many teenagers take sexually explicit or even nude pictures of themselves and send them to others either online or through text messaging. These photos become "sextortion" when they are used as a tool of exploitation or extortion.

    Recently a Colorado teenage girl made the mistake of sending a naked picture of herself to a 20-year-old man in California. The girl thought this young man liked her and she had feelings for him. She accepted him as a friend on Facebook. After receiving the teenage girl’s naked picture, the man threatened her, telling her that if she didn’t send him $1,500 dollars or send him more naked pictures of herself, he would send her naked picture to all her friends on Facebook.

    The teenage girl was faced with the possibility of her naked picture being distributed to all her friends and felt pressured to comply. She finally told her mother, who then alerted law enforcement. This 20-year-old man was identified, prosecuted, and sentenced to prison.

    “Sextortion" cases are very concerning to law enforcement because frightened victims might give in to demands such as posing for explicit photos, having sex with the perpetrator, or sending them money. Cheezo asks parents and possible victims of "sextortion" to report incidents to law enforcement.