Via the Washington Post:
Sending nude photos via cellphone now has a name. It's called "sexting" and it's the latest talking point for parents of teens.
In Seattle, sexting moved to the forefront in June when school officials at Bothell High School heard rumors of naked pictures of two cheerleaders circulating among football players. School officials received copies of the photos in August and suspended the two girls from the cheering squad, one for a month and the other for the entire school year, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Last month, the cheerleaders' parents sued the school district, alleging that the girls should not have been suspended.
The issue of sexting is arising elsewhere as well, with cases reported in at least a dozen states. In the past month, police have confiscated five cell phones of teens between ages 11 and 17 in Scranton, Penn., and in New York, police have charged a 16-year-old boy with allegedly enticing a 15-year-old girl to text him sexually explicit photos and a movie of herself that he then forwarded to friends.
According to a survey of 1,280 teens and young adults by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl.com, 22 percent of girls and 18 percent of boys say they have electronically sent or posted nude or semi-nude images of themselves. And about one-third of teen boys and one-quarter of teen girls say they have had nude or semi-nude images shared with them. Posting sexually suggestive messages is even more prevalent among the teens surveyed. Nearly 40 percent of them report posting such messages, and nearly half of them say they have received them. In video interviews with the National Campaign, a panel of teens tells tales of sexting in the Washington region. One girl, Mayron, shares the story of a girl from West Springfield High School who sent a photo of herself topless to her boyfriend. "By the end of the day, the whole county had it," Mayron says.
Short of banning camera phones, parents can find ways to get through to teens that sexting isn't such a good idea. For one, "make sure your kids fully understand that messages or pictures they send over the Internet or their cell phones are not truly private or anonymous," says the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "Also, make sure they know that others might forward their pictures or messages to people they do not know or want to see them, and that school administrators and employers often look at online profiles to make judgments about potential students/employees. It’s essential that your kids grasp the potential short-term and long-term consequences of their actions."
In addition, the National Campaign recommends having your teens leave their phones and laptops in a public place in the house at bedtime, keeping an eye on their electronic pages and postings, knowing their friends -- both in real life and cyberspace -- and clearly setting expectations of "appropriate" electronic behavior.
If you have teens, how do you keep up with the latest in teen technology? Do you watch their Tweets and track their Facebook page? Have you heard your teens talking about sexting? And if your child is a pre-teen, how are you setting the stage for when their technological knowledge surpasses your own?
This article is an eye opener, but it is definitely not surprising. The warning is clear: Set limits. Know your children. Stay involved. Cell phones are not the safe communication devices we had hoped they would be. They have been tapped into as yet another source for perversion, no different than any other media device.