Excuse me - start tapping our phone lines for people participating in phone sex - sexting is much more graphic. I believe we should let kids know the dangers. Adults too. The mere possession of a sexually explicit image or video of a child (anyone under the age of 18) is a felony in Oregon (ORS 163.688 or ORS 163.689). But to charge teens who send such a photo to their girl or boy friend and get charged with child pornography is ludicrous.
Law enforcement and the judicial system should immediately develop special laws for sexting separate of child pornography laws. Right now, the police have to act on the laws that are there. Those laws can easily be used for revenge. Send an explicite sexting message from a throwaway phone, give a mystery call to police giving the person's name that you sent it to. The police apprehend the receiver and check their phone, sometimes even if the image had been deleted, and whether or not the receiver forwarded the photo to someone else, in some states, that person can charged with having child pornography on their phone.
If this happens to you or you know of a student who has sent or recieved such a photo, the best thing you can do is take the phone to the police immediately. Delay can be your enemy. - Editor
with your kids about sexting
It's far too easy for them to assume that private online communication stays private. It feels intimate, and sharing intimate details is one way we build close relationships with friends and love interests, which is part of the developmental work of adolescence.
But teenagers should know that any private exchange of words or photos online can also be shared with the whole school, not to mention the rest of the world.
The reality is that privacy settings and trusted relationships are no match for the temptations and potential for accidents inherent in the technology.
This is why, challenging as it might be, it's important to talk to kids about sexting, whether it involves sharing provocative pictures of themselves or provocative messages.
As parents, you can avoid being dismissed as nagging, old-fashioned or clueless by not focusing on how you feel about the appropriateness of sexting. Instead, the message should be about the concrete dangers and serious short- and long-term consequences of online missteps.
Sexting is one of those things that, done casually, can have very painful consequences.
1. Images have a life of their own - Example: Your son or daughter may trust a friend with photos but they, in turn, might trust a close friend who, then, may think it would be fun to share. Or the phone may end up in someone else's handslike the principal.
2. Sexting could result in a criminal record - It is illegal to distribute sexually explicit photos of someone under 18, even if they are disseminating photos of themselves. People can make a screen shot from Snapchat. Delete a photo and authorities can still find it. Remind your children there are laws that govern their actions and they may face serious, life-altering consequences.
3. Dignity is worth protecting - Remind your children that you care about how the world sees them. While they might think they control their own sense of dignity and privacy, sexting takes that control out of their hands. They may think it's parental paranoia for you to say that wayward pictures can come back to bite them, but you can offer real scenarios: What if they came up during a job interview or when they're in a future relationship?
4. Think before you
act - Finally, ask your children to think carefully
about what they share with others. It's up to them to make
good decisions for themselves, but, as their parent, and
someone on their side, it's your job to try to help them
avoid mistakes that could cause serious
OMG. You won't
believe what kids are saying these days.
Here's a crash course in sexting 101.
Between social networking sites and picture messaging, there's a lot of platforms for your underage daughter to show off pictures of her increasingly adult looking bod. Of course, most teen girls are going to experiment with taking cute or even flirty pictures of themselves -- usually this isn't a reason to freak out. However, as the clothes come off, the cause for alarm should go up. Besides the sexual implications this could have, sending this type of picture can also get sexy senders in trouble for distribution of child pornography. It seems extreme -- but it has happened.
Just what are they saying with all that "LMAO," "TTFN," junk!? Abbreviated "text speak" can be perfectly innocent -- like saying ILYS to her BFF -- but other texts be a little racier than they appear. Here's a quick-tionary of some of the more scandalous ones:
8- Oral sex
As a parent -- especially one of a teenager -- we know you might not want to interfere in your child's personal life. However, if you're footing the bill it's within your right to inquire why your kid had over 1,000 text messages this past month -- a number that high is reason enough to start asking questions. To prevent over the top texting, get on a family plan with an "allowance" feature -- where you can reward your kids with more texting a month or punish them with less.
Kristina Grish, author of "The Joy of Text" suggests taking these 3 simple steps to stop your teen from sexting:
1. Limit phone features like text messaging
2. Have passwords for your kids phones, e-mails & profiles
3. If your kids have an online profile you can be their friend and monitor their behavior
Alarm bells ring
But the practice of sexting - sending nude or semi-nude images of oneself to others via mobile phones - is having unintended and, in some cases, tragic consequences.
The risk of having one's private pictures distributed among schoolmates or uploaded on to social-networking websites is only one part of it.
It could also lead to a criminal conviction as a sex offender for any teenager who forwards them on to someone else.
Sending or distributing explicit photos of a child under 18 is, in many countries, illegal. It is also illegal to send such photos to a minor - even if both parties consent to it.
A spate of cases in the United States has seen several "sexting" teenagers arrested on charges of child pornography - alarming parents, school officials, police and prosecutors.
It has led people to ask whether threatening children with the same law that was drawn up to protect them - and potentially creating many more sex offenders - is the best way to tackle the phenomenon of "sexting"?
One such case has ended up in a court in Pennsylvania and is being closely watched by interested groups across the US.
The route to the courthouse began when several pictures of pupils in various states of undress were discovered on other pupils' phones by staff at the local school in Tunkhannock.
The technology is so new that people
haven't found their moral compass when using it
He had been particularly alarmed by the case of Jessica Logan, an 18-year-old from Ohio who took her own life after pictures she sent of herself to her boyfriend ended up in the hands of fellow pupils.
Mr Skumanick offered the Tunkhannock pupils in question, around 20 of them, a six-month education programme to learn more about the consequences of their actions - and to help them avoid a child pornography charge.
Three girls - and their parents - refused to sign up, and are now suing Mr Skumanick with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Mr Skumanick said he thought he was being "innovative and progressive" when he offered the youngsters the classes.
"I didn't have to give them this opportunity. I could have just charged them," he told the BBC.
He says the recent arrest of a man in Georgia for allegedly making internet contact with one of the pupils involved in the case justifies his concern. The man has been charged with criminal solicitation and corruption of minors.
"Our main goal was simply for the pupils to go through the programme we had developed to help them learn about the dangers of sexting," Mr Skumanick said.
But Witold Walczak, legal director for ACLU in Pennsylvania who is fighting the case on behalf of the pupils, said the district attorney's actions risk setting a dangerous precedent.
"Child porn is about the abuse and exploitation of minors by adults. That's not happening here," he said.
"The kids who do this are doing potential harm to themselves. They are both the perpetrator and the victim. Why would you want to compound that with a criminal prosecution and conviction?"
This is one of at least 20 prosecutions that have been undertaken or threatened in a number of US states in recent months.
Jessica Logan, says her mother, was a "vivacious, fun" 18-year-old.
But her life changed when a nude photo of herself she sent to her boyfriend ended up in the hands of hundreds of teenagers in her home city of Cincinnati, Ohio.
For months, she faced taunts of "slut", "porn queen" and "whore". Insults were posted on her MySpace and Facebook pages.
She became introverted and skipped classes, her friends say.
Despite this, Jessica went on local TV - her identity concealed - to "make sure no-one else will have to go through this."
A few months later, in June 2008, she hanged herself in her bedroom.
Her devastated parents, Cynthia and Albert Logan, are now campaigning for greater awareness of the dangers of sexting.
But it is not just an American problem. Cases have also been reported in Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia.
The New South Wales state government in Australia launched an education campaign this month after receiving reports that girls as young as 13 were sexting.
"I urge parents to warn their children about the consequences of sexting," state Community Services Minister Linda Burney said.
"It may be a difficult conversation but I think every parent will agree it is a very important one."
A survey of more than 1,000 teenagers in the US last year found that around one in five 13 to 19 year olds had sent nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves either by text or online.
A third of boys and a quarter of girls said they had had nude or semi-nude images, originally meant to be private, shared with them, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies found.
Bill Albert of the Washington-based organisation says today's generation of teenagers needs to find a line between public and private behaviour in light of the new technology.
"The line is very much more blurred than in the past. The technology is so new that people haven't found their moral compass when using it," he told the BBC.
"The problem is that even if you think you are sending a picture only to your boyfriend or girlfriend of the moment, it can go from private to global in a nano-second.
"And something like that can stick with you, almost like a cyber-tattoo, for the rest of your life."
Mr Albert said that while child porn laws are "an awfully severe and blunt instrument", alerting teenagers to the legal consequences of their actions is no bad thing.
"The teenagers in our survey were very surprised by the legal action taking place," he said. "The legal consequences were very low on their list of concerns."
Parry Aftab, a leading authority on cybercrime, is campaigning for a change in the law in the US.
She says the current legal options for dealing with cases of sexting "are insane".
She wants to see children facing a misdemeanour charge rather than child pornography - a much less serious offence that would eliminate the possibility of a teenage offender being labelled a sex offender for years.
A number of states in the US are considering this approach.
Vermont has introduced a bill that would legalise the consensual exchange of graphic images between two 13-to-18-year-olds, although passing on such images would remain a crime.
Ohio is considering a proposal that would see the practice of sexting reduced from a felony crime to a misdemeanour. Mr Skumanick would like Pennsylvania to consider something similar.
However, ensuring laws are available so that prosecutors and police can still act over sexting are vital, Ms Aftab says.
"It is dangerous behaviour that we don't want children to be encouraged to do," she told the BBC.
"Not only could these images end up in
the hands of paedophile groups and place kids at higher risk
of being targeted, but they could also be subject to
extortion by those who have ended up with the images."
A Michigan teenager learned the difficult way what can happen after hitting the send button on a nude selfie:
Unrelenting text messages and emails, stalking and extortion for five years, not only from the Florida man named Bruce who originally received the then 13-year-olds photos, but from others she thought he shared them with, federal prosecutors argued in complaint in U.S. District Court, the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News
The now 18-year-old St. Clair County teen, whose name and hometown have not been released, bowed to pressure and sent photos to men who said that if she didnt comply, they would post the photos they already had on the Internet.
For about 18 months, she complied and took nude photographs of herself every other day and forwarded them, according to the complaint.
She attempted suicide twice, according to the complaint, and finally told authorities of the years-long harassment in September after she found 30 images of herself on an Internet porn site. The photos and videos had generated thousands of comments.
Rochester Area Teens Could Face Felonies for Sexting
In a March email to a man described in the complaint as Suspect No. 5, she offered a glimpse of her tortured existence:
I dont understand why you cant leave me alone, she wrote in the email that is included in the complaint. Im already in therapy, Ive gone to psych hospital twice now for trying to commit suicide. Are you trying to kill me?
The man who originally received the teens nude photos, Bruce Powell, 26, was arrested by the FBI Tuesday evening at has Tallahassee, FL, home, and charged with cyberstalking and child pornography. He had allegedly contacted her by email as recently as Oct. 11, writing:
This is literally your last chance to answer me. You have 24 hours. I know where you are, I know where your family is, all will be exposed unless you answer.
Powell has been detained and is awaiting extradition to Michigan. He reportedly admitted his part in the years-long extortion scheme. Although a half-dozen suspects were originally thought to be involved in sending more than 4,000 messages, Powell admitted in his detention hearing in Florida they were all the same person: him.
Wake-Up Call for Parents
U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said the case underscores the importance of parents having frank conversations with their children about the very real danger of online predators.
The Internet is a window to the world, and predators are lurking outside, looking for ways to get in. When you send private information and photos to strangers, they obtain power over you, McQuade told the Free Press.
Parents should also tell their kids that no amount of shame should prevent them from asking for help when they find themselves in bad situations, she said. Victims sometimes suffer in silence and make the situation worse by complying with the demands of predators because they are too ashamed to admit their own roles.
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers some tips to parents about talking to children about the dangers lurking online, but an attorney who is representing one of the 31 Rochester, MI, teens who potentially face felony charges for sexting nude images of themselves and their friends says action is as important as talking.
Attorney Shannon Smith told WJBK-TV that parents should disable the Snapchat application on their kids phones as a precautionary measure.
How are you talking to your kids about the dangers of online predators? Do you have any tips that would be helpful to others?
Snapchat has caused issues in many of my cases, Smith said. The Snapchat app allows children to take photos without leaving a trace of the photo on your phone. It leads children to believe that there will be no consequences.
About half of all Snapchat users are between the ages of 13-17, according to a story on The Telegraph, and the application was the culprit in the leaking of about 90,000 images reportedly leaked online in what has been dubbed The Snappening.
A handful of celebrities including ]Jennifer Lawrence, Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, Jessica Brown-Findlay and Nick Hogan have allegedly had private images shared online but increasingly children are being targeted, the newspaper said.
A third-party client, Snapsaved.com,
has admitted it was the source of the leaked photos, The
Landing Kids On Sex Offender List... For Life 4:20
as if kids sexting is sexually dievents. Yet, in many
states, child pornography laws haven't caught up with cyber
space and in some states like Pennsylvania, an underage girl
can send an underage boy a photo of her in a bar and be
charged as a child pornographer and he could also be charged
by just having it on his phone (not sending it, not showing
it, may not even know it is there. An evil way to frame
someone, I'd say. - Gordon Clay
Sexting - sending provocative pictures or text messages - is the latest trend among teens and young adults expressing their sexuality in the digital realm. A recent study conducted by cosmogirl.com found 20 per cent of teens between 13 and 19 have sent a naughty message or posted a nude photo online.
Sexting can be controversial when it involves teens. According to an Associated Press report last month, three teen girls at a Pennsylvania high school who allegedly sent revealing cellphone photos of themselves were slapped with child pornography charges, as were the boys who received them.
But it's not just hormonal teens sending seductive images and words with their cellphones.
Vancouver-based sex therapist Dr. David McKenzie says sexting can be used as a tool to stoke the flames for couples in need of a spark. Just be sure not to let naughty midday messages turn into a crutch.
"You need to build a healthy distance in a relationship to have your own life," McKenzie said. "Sex messaging should be done occasionally and like anything, it can become boring after a while."
But when the going is good it can be really good, according to exotic dancer-turned-entrepreneur Ryann Rain.
"It's another way of flirting," she says. "Sexting is a tease like anything else and I certainly love to tease."
Rain, who runs workshops for housewives wanting to feel a little less desperate, says sexting adds a sense of anticipation.
"One little text can lead to a response back and then things go from there," she says.