Sexting: The peer pressure factor

By Anne Collier

This scenario – true story in Arizona, actually – is probably not uncommon, so good for parent-child discussion. A 13-year-old student’s cellphone gets confiscated because she’s caught using it in class. Her mom shortly gets a call from the school police officer saying the phone has the nude photo of a boy on it. The phone is returned to the mom, who then finds text messages from the boy on it “asking her daughter to send him nude pictures of herself. She had refused, but he was persistent: ‘I sent you one. Don’t you like me?'” This was a boy she did like, her mother told the Arizona Republic, wondering how long it would’ve been before she gave in. It’s a volatile mix: kids’ normal desire to be liked and accepted, as this mom put it, peer pressure, and digital media. That’s dicey enough, but add child-pornography laws into the mix, with arrests and charges for production and distribution, and the impact of adolescent behavior can be earth-shattering for kids and their families. In another story in the same article, a 12-year-old student “faced criminal charges after she snapped a lewd photo of herself using a classmate’s cellphone and sent the image to other students as a prank.” Fortunately, she was suspended from school, not prosecuted. Gina Durbin, director of student-support services in the Cave Creek Unified School District, suggests to parents that they “tell their children to lock their phones when not in use and not to loan them to anyone.” Good advice. At least that lowers the chances of getting blamed for someone else’s sexting prank.

In related news, two 13-year-old boys in Tucson face charges of “use of a telephone to offend, harass or intimidate” for passing around a nude photo of a 13-year-old girl with their cellphones, the Arizona Daily Star reports. They’re misdemeanor charges “because in all likelihood, the teens were not aware of the implications of their actions, officials said.”

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