DA, educators caution students against 'sexting'
Posted April 12, 2010 6:15 p.m. EDT
Updated April 12, 2010 7:14 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Various studies estimate that anywhere from 4 to 20 percent of teenagers are sending sexually explicit texts or pictures of themselves from a cell phone or computer.
The practice, known as "sexting," has Alamance County District Attorney Pat Nadolski and area educators trying to reach teens before they send something that could lead to embarrassment, taunting or even criminal charges.
"They're out there doing it, but I don't think they're thinking about the repercussions," Nadolski said.
Sexting might appear to be intimate, but it can quickly go public.
"They don't think it's going to get out. So, they can text provocative things to each other and occasionally send pictures, and they think it's pretty private," said Leslie Carlucci, a junior at Millbrook High School.
Carlucci and classmate Kara Walker said they watch what they text, but they know classmates can cross the line with sexting.
"Girls just think they have to be one up on another girl," Walker said. "If a girl's wearing short shorts, they have to wear shorter to get a guy's attention."
If a couple breaks up, private messages and photos spread like wildfire among classmates, Carlucci said.
"It really makes me think about what I say and what I do. I wouldn't want that to happen to me," she said.
Last year, a 13-year-old girl in Tampa, Fla., committed suicide when nude photos of her that she had texted began to circulate.
"If a teenager is thinking about doing it – thinking about pushing the send button – we want them to think again," Nadolski said, adding that teens who send or receive sexually explicit texts also could face child pornography charges.
Millbrook High media specialist Kerri Brown Parker helps organize online safety training. Instead of banning social media like Facebook and smart phones, she said, it's better to educate students about the pitfalls of lost privacy.
"We really have to show them that they have to take a step back and be more discriminating," Parker said. "The conversation is the most important thing parents can do with their kids in terms of cell phones and the Internet."