By Stacey Ross
I recently met a mom who was taken back when she found out that her 15 year-old son had received a photo from a classmate – namely a nude selfie that was circulating around the school. Sadly, the photo was of a young teenage girl, who was also in the boys’ class.
Had her son intended to forward or share the photo? Doubtful. Did the girl and those circulating the photo all contribute to the ensuing mess? Yes. Did everyone understand the ramifications of their actions? A big fat NO!
A sexting expert speaks
As the school year begins, Chris Duque, a cybersecurity specialist based in Hawaii, gathers parents together to enlighten them about the stark realities of the Internet, and how they can become more involved in their kids’ online worlds. He also diligently educates families of young teens about the life-changing consequences of sexting.
“Parents and teens don’t understand the ramifications of sexting until they get personally involved, but by then, the damage has already been done. My recent talk to parents revealed that most of them didn’t know the criminal liabilities their children face when sexing, but also the impact on their reputations and futures,” Duque said.
Here are a few of the points that he emphasizes:
1) Children can face criminal penalties, as the photos or videos can be construed as child pornography.
Child pornography laws were originally designed to protect children against adult predators, but in the present digital age both consensual and non-consensual sexting can be deemed criminal when the person in the photo is under 18 years of age. Depending on the state, consequences can include felony charges, mandatory sex offender registration, and even a prison sentence.
2) Because of the permanence of the Internet, the photos can continue to haunt a child for life.
The internet is merciless and, sadly, what goes online is likely to stay online. As celebrities, musicians, and other online enthusiasts continue to reveal personal content at an increasing alarming rate, children run the risk of being desensitized, deeming images shared as playful and innocuous.
Duque urges everyone to take precautionary measures by steering away from images that are sexually provocative or are compromising to one’s character.
3) Photos and videos might be used to bully the child or lead to ‘sextortion.’
Predators are very skilled at posing as teens on social media and gaming sites. They are also skilled at luring in vulnerable victims, who eventually grow to trust them enough to willingly send lewd photos of themselves to the predators. These people then reach into their bag of tricks to find crafty ways to extort money or additional images from their victims, who are trapped in the insidious racket.
Duque recommends that parents look at the sexting legislation where they live and have regular heart-to-heart chats with their kids about responsible behavior. He stresses the grave consequences of circulating compromising photos and asks students to think twice about the content of their posts. And that’s the naked truth!
Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of SanDiegoBargainMama.com. A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.