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"Sexting"--A Dangerous New Craze

Caution to Parents: Monitor Teen Cellphone Use

An alarming number of teens are engaging in a disturbing new practice called “Sexting”, the practice of sending nude photos of themselves in cell phone text messages. They are also taking shots of friends at parties doing certain things while under the influence of alcohol, and then circulating the pictures.

In one study conducted by the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Washington, 500 randomly chosen teenager profiles on MySpace showed 54% contained high-risk behavior information, with 24% of those discussing and/or posting photos of a sexual nature.

Teens may view this as innocent adolescent behavior; however, some teens around the country are now being charged with child pornography, and more prosecutors are considering this option as well as other serious felonies. There are those that disagree, saying those charges should be saved for sex offenders, not teens who may have used poor judgment. Some are calling sexting a victimless crime; however, some photos are being forwarded to other teens or are being posted on the Internet as a way to bully, harass or humiliate other teens. This has led to a few cases of teens committing suicide because they couldn’t handle the embarrassment and abuse. Additionally, sexting may leave teens exposed to online predators and unwanted solicitations.

The study also showed that teens with a sexual orientation other than “straight” displayed increased sexual references. The profiles of teens involved in sports, hobbies or religious involvement showed fewer displays of risky behavior.

So what can parents do? Parental engagement is key. Set ground rules and develop a contract for phone use. Don’t be afraid to check your child’s phone; make that one of the stipulations for them getting a phone. Install parental controls. Some companies have developed software and several cell phone networks are providing parental control services that parents can use to monitor activity and block or provide notification of X-rated messaging. Many of these also include other safety features such as no texting and driving, limits on when and where the phone can be used, blocking unwanted callers, and GPS locators. Following is a list of some of the options available:

• WebSafety is a software that can be purchased that includes a wide variety of safety features. It can be used for select phones on Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon networks. It also provides applications for your computer.

• Kajeet is a pay-as-you-go cell phone service with a wide variety of safety features. You must purchase one of their many styles of phones, then choose a plan, which can be as little as $4.99 per month. Service is provided on the Sprint Network.

• AT&T provides “Smart Limits” where parents can choose from a moderate amount of features and add customized controls for $4.99 per month, per phone line.

• Alltel provides an application that allows parents to filter offensive sites.

• Verizon’s content filter consists of 3 age appropriate ratings: 7+, 13+, and 17+.

• Sprint offers a phone you may purchase that includes the free parental control feature, as well as a GPS locator.

Not all options will work with certain phones or networks so you will need to check with your carrier to see which one fits your needs. It must be noted that blocking photos is more complex so it is recommended that parents set ground rules regarding cell phone use, and manually check their child’s cell phone often.

(Sources: Lincoln Journal Star, 02-05-09; washingtonpost.com, 01-06-09; websafety.com; kajeet.com; att.com; verizonwireless.com; sprint.com)


"Sexting"--A Dangerous New Craze

Tony Zara

Apr 03, 2009

well i think that is a good idea for phones but only if you are younger bc parents and teens over 16+ should have a bond that they can trust each other and should have a freedom with our cell phones..but it is very wrong for younger people to send text like that bc once they send it to one person hundreds are going to see it later..so be smart and stay straight
samone Clayton

May 08, 2009

I don't think anybody should be sexting. even grown ups that is inappropriate and it doesn't need to be happening but you know what that is just my opinion and i'm staying with it.