Protecting Public School Students from “Sexting”
The Unfortunate Consequences of Sexting
After the relationship ended, her ex-boyfriend sent the photos to other female students at Logan’s school, which resulted in months of harassment and teasing for Logan. Logan reported, according to MSNBC, that the other girls called her a "slut" and a "whore," and that the teasing was so disruptive that she began to skip school. Logan hung herself one month after her high school graduation.
Logan’s parents recently filed suit against the high school and several other defendants, alleging that the school and the local police did not do enough to protect their daughter from being bullied and harassed, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer.
According to a recent study commissioned by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl.com, “20 percent of teenagers have taken nude or semi-nude pictures or videos of themselves and sent them to someone or posted them online,” reports the New York Times blog Gadgetwise. Most of these photos are sent to either a boyfriend or girlfriend or to someone with whom the student hopes to have a relationship.
How Public Schools Are Responding to Sexting
Public school officials across the country are taking steps to raise student and parent awareness about the problems associated with sexting. The Pennsylvania-based Herald-Mail reports that one school district has decided to conduct a series of seminars on sexting for parents and students at the district’s high schools, middle schools, and even elementary schools.
- Teach students that there is no such thing as complete privacy in the age of the Internet. Remind your children that any photo that they send or give someone can become public, even if they originally sent the photo in a private e-mail or text message. Encourage students to avoid sending any photos that they would feel uncomfortable being widely distributed.
- Use your cell phone plan to protect your kids. Cell phone service providers offer parents the option of choosing to block their children’s phones from receiving any images.
- Tell students to delete any explicit pictures that others may send them. Tell students about the terrible consequences that have arisen from teenagers forwarding naked pictures that they were originally sent by girlfriends or boyfriends. Sending other people’s explicit photographs is considered pornography, and sending photographs that depict nudity in someone under 18 can be considered distributing child pornography.
- Be frank and open with students about the problems that can arise with social media use. Adolescents are often more impulsive and less rational than adults, and with the fierce social pressures that exist in a typical high school, the combination can result in acts of cruelty. Cell phones and social networking sites such as Facebook or Myspace are unfortunately used by teenagers for purposes of harassing or tormenting their peers. Encourage your teenager to visit the website ThatsNotCool.com, which features videos and advice for teenagers about how to deal with online harassment, pressure to send naked pictures, and excessive text messaging, among other issues.