May 15, 2008
A new, dangerous trend is growing among teenagers: text messaging explicit photos of themselves, also known as sexting. Students as young as 12 are exchanging salacious pictures and messages through their cellphones.
"A picture got out of somebody else's older sister and that kinda spread like wildfire through our school," said a tenth grader.
The phenomenon is raging as wildly as their hormones. It's known as sexting or sex texting, sending lewd messages and pictures through a cellphone. "Nude body pictures, topless, bottomless, poses, inappropriate," said one tenth grader.
Its invaded middle schools as well. A seventh grader said, "It's not usually strangers. It's just somebody you've been talking to lately and they want to see more of you... literally."
Half of the 12 year old's ABC 7/NewsChannel 8's Julie Parker talked to had heard of this happening in their school. All the students talked to for the story said while they knew about it, they hadn't done it themselves. Both genders agree the boys are the instigators, but some girls play along.
"I think the girls, they just want to get their attention and usually it works," said an eighth grader. Another student in the same grade said, "Sometimes they'll say, 'Send me a picture of your boobs' or 'Send me a picture of your butt.'"
The risque game has very real consequences. "The phones these days are like very good so they can just like send it to the Internet and they can put it on MySpace and other people can save it so it's like all over the place," said a seventh grader.
John Shehan from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children said, "Once it's out there, while they might think it's just their classmates looking at these images, well, it's also the dirty old men. It's the pedophiles. It's those that want to sexually prey on children who take these images, who collect them and spread them worldwide."
It's a very real fear for parents. "It's alarming. They're not protected." "It's really disappointing! It's hard to be a parent today."
The kids said very often it starts as a girlfriend sending a boyfriend a picture, but then they break up, he shows a friend and it quickly gets forwarded around. It's a felony for children under 18 to not only receive one of these pictures on their phone, but taking a photo and sending it could lead to pornography production and distribution charges.