Local News

Families shocked by criminal charge for teen sexting

Posted September 1, 2015 5:25 p.m. EDT
Updated September 1, 2015 6:28 p.m. EDT

— Two high school students face legal action after being charged sexual exploitation, leaving many families with unsettled emotions.

Cormega Copening and his girlfriend Brianna Benson—students at Jack Britt High School in Fayetteville—found out the hard way.

“I’m sure they have no idea that’s what’s going to happen,” Anne Heard, a mother of two, said. “They think they’re just having fun; they don’t know the consequences.”

Copening started at quarterback for the Buccaneers on Aug. 21 but was benched last Friday and won’t return to the field until his legal issues are resolved.

Authorities said Copening and Benson, 16, exchanged five sexually explicit pictures using cell phones.

Both were charged with five counts of sexual exploitation—a felony.

Parents in the area said hearing the news left them with unsettled feelings.

“I would not be happy if my kids were doing that, but I didn’t know it would be illegal,” Mandy Kelly said.

Child psychiatrist Seth Tabb said parents need to educate themselves first on the laws, and then follow suit with their kids.

“Say to them there are laws you may not be aware of that you are violating,” Tabb said. “This could put you in trouble, this could follow you all of your life.”

Tabb said he urges parents to speak openly and protectively to their teens, at a time when emotions aren’t running high.

“This could hurt somebody else besides you,” Tabb said. “Do you want your name and this image or these issues coming up as the first thing somebody finds on a google search?”

Tabb said he also encourages parents to discern whether their kids feel pressure to sext or are doing it consensually, or whether there is a more malicious intent—like circulating the images as a form of cyberbullying.

Copening is due in court Sept. 30 for the sex charges. If convicted, he would have to register as a sex offender.