Local News

Mar 31, 2010 12:12 AM by Courtney Meznarich

Parents and teens warned about the dangers of "sexting"

A Central Coast student may be headed to court for something many teens are doing these days.

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's deputies say sexting is on the rise...and it's illegal.

In a national survey, 20% of teenagers overall say they've texted nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves. And as far as texting sexually suggestive messages, nearly 40% of all teens say they've done it.

Now deputies have a message they want teens and parents to hear loud and clear.

"They told us, at a little like pep rally assembly thing that it's like illegal, you shouldn't do it," says a local San Luis Obispo High School student. "You can get in trouble for it."

It's not just trouble, sexting can lead to pornography charges.

"In the most recent case that we are dealing with, a 17 year old male was sending commercial grade pornographic images to a minor which is against the law," says crime prevention specialist Brandy Swain, of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department.

That teen wasn't arrested, but his case has been sent to the district attorney.
Other sexters were not so lucky.
CNN reports that a Florida student sent out nude pictures of his 16 year-old girlfriend, and he's been sentenced to five years probation and also had to register as a sex offender.

"A teenager, they're going to do whatever they want," says the SLOHS student. "They can listen to the consequences but they're not going to like, understand it, until it actually happens to them."

Swain agrees. "A lot of children are believing that this is just a flirtatious act, however it is pornography."

But the sheriff's department says you can protect your kids.

"A lot of parents look at cell phones as a safety precaution for their child, however text messaging is not a necessity," says Swain. "So another option would be to remove the texting capabilities from their cell phones."

Rachel Robbins has two teenagers, one in a local junior high, the other at a local high school. She says she checks her kid's texts often. "You've got to hover over these kids that have this much access. The Internet, texting, it's a very powerful thing."

A powerful thing... that parents, and kids should be careful with, says Swain. "If you're receiving or forwarding these images you could be involved in a criminal act."

Beside criminal consequences, there can be emotional damage and a damaged reputation.
The sheriff's department wants to remind teens that once a picture is sent, there may be no stopping it.

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