21 Jun, 2015 Sexting Could Label You as a Sex Offender for Life
Many people don’t know the dangerous consequences of sexting. Labeled as a sex offender for life, depression and suicide are all possibilities. Be informed.
Three days ago my phone rang in the wee hours of the morning. It was a call from a concerned friend who told me about his shocking discovery of his daughter’s naked photos of herself on her cell phone. Like many parents, he never imagined his 13-year-old daughter would be involved in sexting. She was. According to her, an older boy threatened that if she didn’t send him naked photos of herself, he would spread lies that she wasn’t a good sexual partner. She never had relations with him sexually. She caved and sent him photos. Cops showed up. Phone was confiscated. A world of hurt and confusion ensued. I have known this young girl for years.
As my friend gave me the tragic details, my heart just broke. Here was a girl, trying to do the right thing and a boy makes a threat which causes her to face law enforcement. If she would have thought two steps ahead about this, she would have seen that either scenario wasn’t a good place to be in and thus report this guy to the police. However, so many teens and parents do not have a clue as to the devastating consequences of sexting. People think it’s an innocent text that is only for the receiver’s eyes to see. The issue is that, whether a person is threatened to send the photo or not, there are serious life-long repercussions surrounding sexting.
In fact, just over a year ago I spoke in a school district where the administration felt a need to address sexting in both the middle and high schools. Sexting among teens is much more common than people realize. Consequently, a teen’s character and future livelihood is at stake. It’s a serious issue that needs to be addressed nationwide.
Exactly what is sexting? Sexting is when a person sends provocative, naked, sexually explicit messages or photos of himself/herself or others through texting.
Here are the top consequences of sexting. Share them with your kids and the kids across the street.
- These photos can be considered child pornography if it involves an underage person. According to About Health’s website, “Sending or receiving these messages is a crime.” The sender AND the receiver of the photos can face legal ramifications because they are considered guilty of distributing child pornography. In fact, Senator Jim Beal recently introduced Senate Bill 838, also known as Audrie’s law. The bill reads that it would be a felony to send and share sexual photos of minors on social media or text messaging in order to harass them.
There is a good possibility that the person who sent the photos will have to register as a sex offender. I know a great guy who made a wrong choice in doing something similar to this years ago and was added to his state’s sex offender list. Years later, he was married with kids and couldn’t get a job to support his family because of one wrong choice he made years earlier. He was devastated and more than frustrated. This sex offender designation can follow you for life, even if you sent the photos when you were just a minor.
Besides the legal issues, sexting often leads to guilt, shame, fear, embarrassment and in some cases, cutting and suicide. The person who sent the photos could resent their bad choice. With today’s technology, there is no control over where and who might see these photos. That realization has caused people to take their own life. People need to be educated about the seriousness of sexting and what it can lead to.
- Talk to your kids and the kids across the street about sexting and why it’s a good choice to not engage in it. When kids understand why it’s not a good idea and what can happen as a result, they will be able to say no, if they are ever asked to participate in sexting. Open communication is key.
- Consider making a cell phone contract with your teen. If they engage in harmful activities with their cell phone, they will lose the privilege of having one. At least you will both be on the same page when and if you decide your teen is responsible enough to handle a phone.
- Let your child know that if anyone ever threatens them regarding sexting, you will report that person to law enforcement. That will be a good reminder to your child that you want to keep them safe and reinforce the seriousness of the issue at hand. Many teens tell me they want a parent to set boundaries because it makes them feel loved.
Sexting is a decision you can’t take back. Parents, keep up the great work on keeping your family safe from the crazies out there. I’m hoping my friend’s perpetrator is caught and gets some serious help while behind bars. In the mean time, let’s keep our privates private.
Question: What safeguards do you have for your kids to help protect them from sexting? Share your answer by clicking here.