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Teens 'sexting' from phones may be calling for trouble

Posted February 25, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

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— Sexting – using cell phones to send nude photos or sexually explicit messages – has become an issue among parents and teens in the Triangle.

Suggestive text messages led parents to complain about inappropriate photos being sent to Salem Middle School students, according to Michael Evans, a spokesman for the Wake County school system. The incident happened after school hours and parents were alerted to the issue, Evans said.

Texting has become Sexting for some teens. 'Sexting' can be a crime

The issue arises because texting has become a popular means of communication among teens.

Sydney Brunson, a senior at Durham's Jordan High School, said her texts are more about everyday life, but she does hear of others sending risqué photos using their phones.

“This is teenagers. We don’t necessarily think 10 steps ahead of us. We sort of think about the right now. We’re always in the present,” Brunson said.

What some may not realize is that those private photos have the potential to become very public.

"I know someone who had a picture that got sent to the entire football team last year, and it was a big issue. Everyone was calling her bad names and her reputation was destroyed," Brunson said.

“Even though you may not intend to put the photos on MySpace, they may end up there,” Wake County Assistant District Attorney Melanie Shekita said.

If the sexually suggestive photos end up on a social networking site, like MySpace, they can become bait for sexual predators to stalk and find these teens, Shekita said.

Sexting is also a crime, Shekita said.

Taking and transmitting a sexually suggestive picture of someone under 18, even if it is of yourself, is a felony for the sender and the receiver. The pictures qualify as child pornography.

“It’s illegal to possess it. It’s illegal to transmit it to someone else,” Shekita said.

At least eight states have reports of teens being arrested for disseminating and possessing child pornography. Shekita said Wake County doesn't want to follow suit.

“I don’t want to target all these children and make them registered sex offenders,” Shekita said.

Brunson said the topic of sexting was discussed during one of her recent psychology classes. She said many students were unaware that the photos could be a crime.

"I don't think people understand the extent of how dangerous it can be," Brunson said.

Kay Phillips, the executive director of the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina, a Durham based non-profit group aimed at reducing teen pregnancy rate, said parents need to be aware of the ramifications of sexting.

"This is something they're (parents) are going to have to face up to as much (as teens doing) drugs, drinking, having sex. It's something parents are going to have to sit down and talk with their kids about."

Phillips said several school systems across the state have called her group asking about the growing popularity of sexting and what they can do about it.

68 Comments

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  • thought Feb 26, 2009

    I am amazed at some of the replies here. Cell phones are not needed by kids- everything I have read is an excuse for lazy parenting. Honestly. My parents had 5 kids- they knew everything we did - that is because they didn't give us a fad to shut us up. They checked everything we did - called to see we were where we were to be. and we paid for it if we weren't. We had rules and followed them- that was law. but so many want to be lazy and turn the other cheek.
    to the parent who said about bullying - are you serious??? I wouldn't be worried about a phone- I'd have my behind at the school taking care of it! and blaming a teacher? oh, I could go on!
    Kids will only get away with what parents allow them to. If you turn your head because you want to be cool - or you are just not interested - they will do things- maybe to get you to notice them.
    Before you hand your child a toy- explain the rules of the game.
    And kids should not be alone- so no, they do not need a phone.

  • tobis19341 Feb 26, 2009

    make an example of them and register them as sex offenders. nothing wrong with that.

  • TheAdmiral Feb 26, 2009

    I don't want the government anywhere near my kids. I can do fine on my own. And with my neighbors kids, and with any of the kids I come in contact with.

    I show them the respect they deserve, and when they do this, the phone is cut off, and put up on ebay after it has been erased.

  • FoxtrotUniformCharlieKiloakaCALM Feb 26, 2009

    and not have the lawmakers raise them that way

  • FoxtrotUniformCharlieKiloakaCALM Feb 26, 2009

    "but at the end of the day kids are fueled by hormones....so lets accept it we were the same way"

    Yes and after two pregnant girlfriends and two abortions later, I think that I want my children to avoid the emotional and the monetary baggage of both.

    then it is your responsibility to raise them that way

  • TheAdmiral Feb 26, 2009

    "but at the end of the day kids are fueled by hormones....so lets accept it we were the same way"

    Yes and after two pregnant girlfriends and two abortions later, I think that I want my children to avoid the emotional and the monetary baggage of both.

  • IteachforJesus Feb 26, 2009

    And here I thought a reporter was supposed to have passed English class if nothing else. Normally I don't say anything about a few grammar errors but holy cow, there are a ton in this article.

  • discowhale Feb 26, 2009

    It's NOT the lawmakers fault!!!

    No it's not their fault that people are doing this. But they don't think through HALF what they pass or the consequences. It should be illegal to take or send these pictures, but the receiver should NOT be held responsible. Not unless they re-send or asked for them in the first place.

    Someone was sending text messages to my number erroneously last year. They'd input there BFF's number wrong, one digit off. Should I be responsible for the trashy things she sent? And trust me, it was pretty raunchy!

    Amyrn,
    bullying and poor teaching didn't start when cell phones came into existence. Teach your kids to do what we did during the Dark Ages of the Baby Boom, tell mommy when they get home what happened.

    Unless you're going to drop everything and run to their aid when they call, the phone is useless. Even then, you can't beam down, the bullying will have stopped by the time you arrive.

    Or better still, teach them self reliance.

  • kikinc Feb 26, 2009

    Soulbait-I agree completely. That's how it was when I was in high school. I also remember a lot of people very upset when certain things were made public. Now, it's the kids fault that they do this, but as parents, we need to step in and control the situation. This type of behavior has many more conseuquences these days, especially with the advent of social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. Even Google can make or break you. I know many people who use Google as a search tool after receiving a resume. If you act irresponsibly, that info can end up on the internet, and there go job opportunities. It is the parents' responsibility to teach children this behavior is unacceptable, not really the lawmakers. I understand why the law is in place, but I don't think it was meant to be used under these circumstances.

  • haggis basher Feb 26, 2009

    "I can't believe I stormed Omaha Beach to pave way for your generation"
    And your grandparents probably said exactly the same thing.....about you!

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