Advancements in technology have had a great impact on our society; communication with one another has become easier than ever. With instant messaging, social networking sites and the ease (and quickness) of texting, we are never too far away from family, friends, and colleagues. People can respond without delay, be more connected to fans/customers, as well as speak more openly and freely, etc. But each of these platforms for exchanges of information, does not come without its drawbacks. The “immediacy” of technology has also created an impersonal approach to communicating (we have all said, “things get lost in translation via text or email”), a decrease in personal contact and increased safety concerns for our society, specifically our youth.
One of the areas that the Youth Project and other youth focused organizations encounter with our teens, is the growing phenomenon known as “sexting”. (According to FindLaw: “In its various forms, sexting is the transmission of nude images or suggestive material via text messages. Such transmission can be textual or image-based and typically occurs via cell phones, smart phones, computers, etc.”)
Current statistics show that:
- 20% of teens admitted to sending or posting nude or semi-nude pictures or video of themselves
- 39% of all teens admitted to sending or posting sexually suggestive messages
- 48% of teenagers say they have received such messages
Many of these teens report sending such photos as a “sexy present” for their boyfriend/girlfriend while others report sending them as a “joke”. What these teenagers don’t realize is that these “presents” and “jokes” come at a great cost. These stats do not even address the number of times those “presents” were re-gifted (forwarded and shared with others, without their consent or knowledge).
A new regulation was passed by the California Assembly Education Committee known as SB919, which makes “student sexting” an expellable offense. For the purpose of this bill, sexting is defined as “the sending or receiving of sexually explicit pictures or video by means of an electronic act.” The ability to expel a student on grounds of sexting would apply if the message was sent…
- On school grounds
- Going to or from school
- During lunch period regardless of whether or not on campus
- During or in transit to or from a school sponsored activity.
Sexting also carries more severe legal consequences. While many states have adopted a new regulation system, which puts offenses on a tiered system with punishments ranging from a summary offense (similar to a traffic ticket) to a felony, California continues to link sexting with child pornography. Currently, under state and federal law, “any person who knowingly distributes explicit images or video featuring a minor, with the “intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust or passions or sexual desires of that person could be found guilty of and imprisoned for distributing child pornography.” Regardless of age, an individual who produces, distributes or possesses an image of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct are committing a felony.
The current consequences can include
- Up to 6 years in prison
- Up to $100,000 fine
- Register as a sex offender (which stays with you for life)
The act of sexting takes a mere couple of seconds, but it’s important to look at the long term repercussions of such an action. Monitoring cell phone usage and talking with our teens about the consequences of sexting is important in lowering the statistics and keeping teens safe.