Sexting BY THE CHILDREN’S COALITION FOR NORTHEAST LOUISIANA
exting is sending, receiving or forwarding sexual photos or sexually suggestive messages through text message or email. Applications like Snapchat that automatically delete pictures after a certain amount of time can give the false impression of security, but the fact is sexting has serious consequences that can’t be mitigated by an app. According to a study in Pediatrics, sexting has been linked to risky sexual behavior among teens. Additionally, teens who sext do so often as a result of pressure or coercion from their friends or significant others. In Louisiana, teens who sext are even at risk of being prosecuted under child pornography laws. Those convicted may face serious time in prison, as well becoming registered sex offenders. Attorney and award-winning author Pamela Samuels Young writes fastpaced mysteries that tackle important social issues. Her most recent courtroom drama, Abuse of Discretion, examines a shocking teen sexting case. Anybody’s Daughter, which won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Fiction, provides an eye-opening look into the world of child sex trafficking. Both books also have young adult
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editions. A former journalist, Pamela received a bachelor’s degree from USC and also earned graduate degrees from Northwestern University and UC Berkeley School of Law. The Compton, California, native is a frequent speaker on the topics of sexting and child sex trafficking. She is the keynote speaker at the upcoming Children’s Coalition events at ULM: the Ouachita Youth Summit on November 7, and the What Works Conference on November 8. Q: What is the most important thing parents and youth need to know about sexting? A: Parents and kids need to be aware that anyone who sends or receives a naked image of a child via text, email or some other medium, could be guilty of distributing and/ or possessing child pornography. It doesn’t matter that the person depicted in the image consented to having their picture taken or even sent their own image to someone else. Children all across the country are being prosecuted for sending naked selfies of themselves or others and the potential legal consequences can be devastating. Q: Why is it important for parents to talk to their children about making a good choices when they text? A: Parents need to understand that kids are growing up in very a different world than they did. I feel strongly that we send very mixed messages to our kids. On the one hand,
we urge sexual abstinence, yet our children are inundated with sex. It’s everywhere: on TV, in music, in movies, in advertising, even in cartoons. Our teens watch shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette and see nearly naked young men and women, who don’t even know each other, making out. This kind of behavior is the norm for most kids today. So when they hit puberty and start exploring their own sexuality, some kids don’t think it’s any big deal to send a naked picture to a girlfriend or a boyfriend.
30% of teens have sent a naked selfie, and 57% have been asked to send one. Q: At what age should parents talk to their kids about sexting? A: Any child who has a cell phone, or has access to one, should be educated about the dangers of sexting. Kids should understand that engaging in this conduct means they could face very serious criminal charges. Such charges, even when leveled at a minor, could follow them for the rest of their lives. Instead of just telling them not to sext, I think it’s a good idea to search the Internet for news articles about other children charged with sexting and share them with your kid. Only then will they see in black and white that the consequences are real. I also recommend that parents and teens watch the documentary This is Life with Lisa Ling, The Age of Consent and discuss it. It explores the legal and social consequences of sexting and profiles two teens, who are facing jail time for their actions. Parents also need to become more social media savvy and actively monitor their children’s social media usage.