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What’s The Big Deal??? Part I UPDATED

PART I of a 2-part series on SEXTING
PART I discusses legal issues
PART II will discuss moral and developmental issues

Sexting_1I got a call recently from a parent who had discovered that one of their son’s female friends had sent a picture of herself partially clothed.  They were extremely upset (for good reason) but they were also very worried about the fact that the phone could potentially hold “child pornography”.  They were conscientious parents who stumbled across the image while checking up on family cell usage via their provider’s web account.

This was just a few weeks after a local middle school had experienced a “sexting scandal”.

What is going on, and why is “SEXTING” such a big deal?

Well, dating has CHANGED since my day.  ‘Way back then, girls didn’t even want to be seen kissing in public, except maybe a quick kiss (1970’s, Deep South… California was different, I hear!).

But those are days long gone by….

Today, teens of both sexes have adapted the use of technology to the “dating game”.  Some studies have shown that over 40% of teen girls have been asked to send an inappropriate image of themselves via the phone.  And, more than a few have complied!!!  Some, such as in the case of the family, above, are sending sexy/nude selfies to “attract” or entice boys (obviously very knowledgeable of male visual vulnerabilities)!  This all can have life altering and, unfortunately, tragic consequences.  Oh, and the girls aren’t the only ones sending these pictures, either.

“Sexting” actually has two methods.  The first is the use of TEXT MESSAGES to hold sexually explicit conversations.  In recent years the texting culture has created a shorthand for use when typing on those little buttons, and a part of that shorthand contains sexually charged meaning if not descriptions of and invitations to specific sexual acts.  While far from harmless, this is the least dangerous type of sexting.  Depending upon local law, the relative ages between sender and receiver, and the actual information conveyed, it is possible for felonies to be committed.

The second method of sexting, by far, has the most serious consequences attached to it.  It involves sending photos or videos of oneself or others who are either naked and/or engaged in sexual acts.  It also includes the use of “video phone” technologies such as SKYPE and FACETIME to have real-time remote sexual encounters called “cybersex”.  Remember, we are taking about teenagers and pre-teens, here, and sometimes even younger kids.  The problem is that these kids are under 18 and that could put their acts into the legal morass of:


News 3You might want to read these articles:

“Sexting” Shockingly Common Among Teens

15-year-old Nampa Girl Arrested in “Sexting” Case

Seven People Arrested For Allegedly “Sexting” Nude Photos

As you can see, kids can land themselves in a world of trouble!

The actual legal lines vary by state and, if state lines are crossed, may involve Federal law.  Depending on the laws of your community or state, a child sending an inappropriate picture of themself to another minor may, or may not, be breaking the law.  Depending on the law where you live, and the discretion of the District Attorney involved, the child who originally produced the picture could be charged with a crime, as could a child/teen who passes the picture on to others (like THAT would never happen!).  Such a crime could carry a heavy penalty, too! (More on that in a few moments.)

Things get a little more uncertain when considering the recipient.  Most lawyers and law enforcement professionals that I asked have told me that a person who receives such a photo, unsolicited, is not necessarily culpable.  It can depend on many factors, the most commonly stated (to me) being:

  • Did the recipient immediately notify parents, authorities, etc.?
  • Did the recipient delete the material immediately?
  • Did the recipient re-transmit the material? (Distribution)
  • Did the recipient market the material, or sell it? (Sale)
  • What are the state and/or Federal laws involved?

The situation would be similar to you opening your mailbox and finding that illegal material had been sent to you.  Depending on what you do and how you do it, you are an innocent party.  Remember, though, the law can be fuzzy, here.  Cyber-law is constantly being developed and evolving, often in the courts!

It gets even more complicated when the ages of the teens are factored in.

  • Is the sender or recipient over 18?
  • What is the age difference between the two?
  • Who is older, sender or recipient?

On top of all of this our concerns must include the situation of someone taking a picture or video of someone naked or engaged in sexual activity without their consent.  This is a definite GOTCHA! And here is how that can happen, too:

“You won’t believe what ______ is doing with her boyfriend at the party!” CLICK!)

jailIt is easy to see how sexting, especially via image/video, can land a child in very deep legal hot water.  Again, depending on the statutes in your state, it could even get them on a sex offender list.

Check out this article, here:  Sexting Leads to Teen Having To Register As A Sex Offender!

Legal trouble is not the only danger to this activity.  Let us look at some of these:

SEXTING AS PRECURSOR TO SEXUALLY ACTIVITY: Even in our sexualized society many of our kids have barriers up that keep them from having sex (although you really need to make sure they are defining “sex” the same way you are!).   SEXTING allows a seducer to slowly and “safely” remove their target’s boundaries to get their boyfriend/girlfriend to go further around the old make-out baseball diamond!  Just read this article in US News & World Report:  Health Buzz: Sexting Teens More Likely To Have Risky Sex

SEXTING CAN BE FOREVER: Once an image leaves the originator’s phone/device, it is completely out of their control.  Once it “escapes” onto other phones or even onto the Internet it has two characteristics:

  • It can spread, literally, at near the speed of light!
  • It is out there FOREVER – It cannot be recalled. It will ALWAYS be on someone’s server or computer, somewhere.

This can pose a significant long-term threat.  Just consider possible outcomes to the following scenario:

A high school sophomore is interested in one of the varsity football players.  So, she sends him a nude “selfie,” image or video, as “advertising”.  Possible outcomes are:

  1. Hopefully, he receives the image and deletes it.
  2. He forwards the image to the entire football team (similar things have happened!)
  3. Somehow or another the other kids at school get a hold of it, and she is persecuted as a “slut” or a “whore”, destroying her social standing.
  4. He sends the image to a friend’s e-mail address where it is passed around via the Internet.
  5. Once on the Internet, “someone” uses it on a web page and it makes its way to unscrupulous porn sites, even child porn sites.
  6. Three years later, when the girl is applying for a scholarship or college admission, the image is “found on MySpace/Facebook/Pinterest/Tumbler/etc.” or it is released by a rival.  She doesn’t get the scholarship or the school of her choice.
  7. In college she meets “MR. RIGHT”.  Unfortunately, MR. RIGHT is made aware of the photo or video and decides that she is “MISS WRONG”.
  8. TWENTY YEARS LATER, when she is married with children, the image is found on the Internet by a friend, social rival, or even a child in her children’s social circle.

These are mostly “worst case” scenarios, but they show the dangers of sexting.  They all have a basis in fact.  These same dangers apply to any electronic media depicting sexual activities. (Need we recall Paris Hilton and a host of sex tape scandals involving other celebrities, or the hacking of celebrity cell phones to steal pictures/videos?)  And don’t forget about webcams, tablets w/ phones, and iPods, too!

Youth rarely thinks of  the consequences of their actions.  When youthful indiscretion is married to modern communications technology, the stakes are much higher!

We need to sit our kids down and explain to them how far-reaching the consequences are for SEXTING.

They need to know:

  • They can get into serious legal trouble.
  • Some school districts consider it a major offense.
  • Just because someone “loves you” doesn’t mean it is forever, and that they won’t take revenge.
  • Once something is on the Internet, it is there FOR-EVER and FOR-EVERY-ONE!
  • Almost EVERYONE has a camera on them…everywhere!!!!

Finally, let them read this story, HERE:

All young people think they know everything and can handle everything.  We did, too!

It’s up to parents and the Church to gently, but firmly, guide them into adulthood regardless of the technologies, and culture, that they grow up in.

NOTE: This article is for educational purposes, only, and does not constituted legal counsel of advice.  If you have legal concerns about sexting and/or other online activities you should consult a practicing attorney, in your state, that is experienced in dealing with issue surrounding electronic privacy and other tech-related issues!

NEXT POST:  SEXTING! What’s The Big Deal???   Part II This will discuss developmental and spiritual risks of sexting.
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What’s The Big Deal??? Part I UPDATED

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