Editorial: ‘Sexting’ not an issue to take lightly

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Parents who haven’t talked to their children about a teen trend known as “sexting” should make it a point to do so, because what might seem like a joke or prank can have very serious consequences.

“Sexting” involves someone taking a nude or semi-nude photo from a cell phone and sending it via text messaging to others.

A possible child pornography charge is one of the serious consequences of what kids might believe to be a harmless prank, Oneida County, N.Y., District Attorney Scott McNamara said.

“What they don’t realize is that in essence, they’re sending child pornography over phone lines,” McNamara said.

That could result in criminal charges against anyone older than 16.

Beyond the legal problem, there’s another possible consequence to consider. Once a photo exists in cyberspace, it’s there forever. That means a photo sent today could crop up on the Internet years from now, McNamara said. It could put young people at risk of becoming the target of sex crimes and might even be used as a source of blackmail.

While schools can help educate on such matters, the onus should not be placed on them when it comes to teaching personal responsibility.

Parents must be the first line of defense when it comes to protecting their children. “Sexting” is not new, and it’s on the rise. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy estimates one of every five teens has electronically sent or posted online, nude or semi-nude pictures or video of themselves. Some of the “sexters” have been as young as elementary school age.

If you haven’t talked to your children about this, do so today. If you have, remind them that the consequences of such activity could be something they’ll regret for many years to come.