The Sierra Vista Police Department has investigated several sexting reports in the past two months and urges parents to get involved and help prevent teens from making a mistake that could haunt them for the rest of their lives.
Sexting is sending sexually explicit pictures or messages primarily by text messaging with cell phones. Research shows that approximately 20 – 30 percent of teens have sent and/or received a sext.
“What most teens don’t think about is that their nude pictures could end up on social networking sites and passed around to a larger audience than they anticipated,” says Cpl. Scott Borgstadt, Sierra Vista community resource officer.
The reality is once a picture goes viral on the Internet, there is no control over it nor can it ever be taken back. That picture will be out there today, tomorrow and years later, available for college recruiters and potential bosses to find.
“Those who copy, forward, or post nude pictures online could face serious criminal charges like sexual exploitation of a minor with a prison stay of 17 years for each image and a lifetime registration as a sex offender,” adds Borgstadt.
What can parents do?
Don’t wait for an incident to happen; talk to teens now about sexting. Let them know you understand the pressures they face but the long-term consequences and humiliation they could face once a picture is sent is much worse.
Teach teens that the buck stops with them and they should delete inappropriate pictures sent to them.
Periodically check teens’ cell phones and social network sites. Make sure they are aware of what you believe is inappropriate and that you will be checking.
Install parental safeguards on computers to prevent inappropriate material from being downloaded.
Develop a cell phone contract. This will give teens some say in the limits imposed and help them become independent in successfully dealing with technology. Place a clause in the contract that includes the consequences of sexting. Be sure your teens understands the consequences for breaching your mutually agreed-upon contract.
More tips and information about sexting are available at American Academy Of Pediatrics, www.aap.org; Adolescent Counseling Services, www.acs-teens.org; and National Crime Prevention Council; www.ncpc.org.
For more information, contact Borgstadt, 452.7500.