Teens Sexting Their Way to Jail

I'm taking a break from our series' on domestic/dating violence, eating disorders, and autism to look behind the scenes of an alarming "sex" alert among our youth. Or maybe I should say "text" alert.

What Am I Talking About?

Headlines hit the news, once again today, concerning the dangers of "sexting" among our youth. (Dallas Morn News) The repercussions are becoming more sobering as the numbers continue to grow right along side of these concerns. While we saunter along in oblivion. And our children play with their lives as well as the lives of others with seemingly little thought.

Gone are the days of our children simply just chatting on land-lines with their friends. But so are the days of conversing on their cell phones. As you may know, texting has taken the lead in communication among our children.

Impersonal? For sure. I know of situations where young people have chosen to take the "easy" way out of a difficult relational situation. Instead of having to share a serious matter voice-to-voice (forget antiquated face-to-face), texting has become enticing to ease their given challenge.

While impersonal texting contributes to our social deficit in the 21st century, add to that texting with a sexual flair. "Sexting". What is that? Most of these messages are not sexually explicit texts but visuals. Nude visuals.

Are you surprised? Most of you are probably not. After all, people have been sharing nude pix for years. There is no new thing under the sun. I can remember my teenage peers using Polaroid shoot and print. But sexting is in a category all to itself. It brings with it vast consequences unlike anything we could have fathomed in the good old days.

There can be no denying sexting these pornographic pix bring sobering results. For one, they can be shared in duplicity. To the masses. And as in the case of one young girl in Ohio who committed suicide when her boyfriend forwarded her nude pix to hundreds of their peers without her approval or knowledge until it was too late.

I'm speaking of Cynthia Logan's daughter, Jessica aka Jessie Logan.

"Jessica Logan, 18, hung herself July 3, 2008, after a her nude cell phone photo - meant for her boyfriend’s eyes only - was sent to hundreds of teenagers in at least seven Greater Cincinnati high schools and Jessica was bombarded with taunts." Jennifer Baker (March 26, 2009) Cincinnati.com

Jessie tried to overcome the one mistake she made. A single nude shot of herself meant for one person's eyes only, not having a clue that after they broke up, he would forward it to hundreds of people. The harassment began. And it never stopped until she ended it... with a noose around her neck right in her own bedroom, in her closet, with her cell phone on the floor.

No one dreamed Jessie would take such drastic measures to escape the pain. She did seek help. She even went public with it to help others (see video). She didn't just lay down and give up. She truly tried to turn it around. But to no avail. I sit here trying to think of words to describe this precious loss to so many. There really aren't any that can even come close. All I can do is cry the tears of a mother.

Thankfully, her mom, Cynthia Logan, is currently pursuing a national campaign to affect laws that will ensure better protection of our teens.

Kudos to her!!!! We need to support her and such efforts in our own communities.

But Really, What Can We Do?

  • We can first begin by making ourselves aware that there truly IS a critical issue among our teens and sexting.

  • From there, we MUST bring prevention to our schools, churches, and for sure our own homes.

  • We must become technically literate or we will lose our opportunity to spare more young people like Jessie.

  • If you think that would never happen to your child, you are foolish. That might sound harsh, but I say it with the most respect. Too, I say it with grave concern because bad things can and DO happen to innocent good people.

  • Get into the heart of the matter: Your child's life. Be proactive. Be smart. Set boundaries with your child's cell phone. Know what kinds of texts they are sending and receiving. LOOK. If you are paying for the bill, and they live in your home, you have absolutely every right. This isn't about "trusting" your child. Goodness, folks! It is about not trusting human nature. We ALL have it. And children especially need protection. They need boundaries with balance. Notice, I didn't say watch them like a hawk and or stalk them! I said be sincerely active in their world.

For Those Who Believe "GOOD" kids Are NOT Susceptible

Teens, no matter who they are, can get caught up in the "moment" and don't' consider the end results. That is a fact. Many do not start out doing or wanting to do something wrong. Many times they just want to be accepted. And other times, they just "act", they don't "think" at all.

Let's Look at Some Facts About Their Growing Minds!

  • Research shows that adolescent brain development is clearly under construction and may not be "complete" until their 20s.

  • "There is growing scientific evidence that the brain continues
    to develop throughout adolescence. Reasoning and judgment
    begin developing in the teen years, but the process continues
    into the early and mid-20s." Resource click here.

  • "Parts of a person's brain continue to mature through a person's early twenties. The prefrontal cortex, the brain's control center for thinking ahead and sizing up risks and rewards, matures well past the teen years. Meanwhile, the brain's limbic system, which controls emotions, matures earlier. When teens make choices in emotionally charged situations, those choices often have more to do with feelings (the mature limbic system) than with logic (the not-yet-mature prefrontal cortex)." Junior Scholastic (10/13/08)

This is not to say teens can't make good decisions, but that we need to understand more clearly what is indeed going on in those minds of theirs, and what is "not" going on. And that rebellion is not always at the helm.

Let's face it, teens are confronted with critical issues every day among their peers. The pressure is on, which ignites stress, which may be a perfect landing for disaster.

Is Sexting Really A Concern?

Many think sexting is becoming epidemic. It's the latest trendy way to share yourself. Quite literally. Unfortunately. "It's a way of expressing yourself", I've heard some teens boldly admit. Too, many of these kids are doing it for a joke. Unfortunately, the joke may turn on them.

  • Roughly 20 percent of teens admit to participating in "sexting," according to a nationwide survey (pdf) by the National Campaign to Support Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. CBS News (01/19/09)
  • "According to one survey, one in five teenagers have sent nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves either online or by cell phone. According to one survey, one in five teenagers have sent nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves either online or by cell phone." Channel 3 News Las Vegas(3/30/09)
  • In fact, a recent study commissioned by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl.com finds one out of five teens has done it!
  • The study also shows that teen girls are not the only ones sharing sexually explicit content.
  • Almost one in five teen boys said they have sent or posted nude/semi nude images of themselves.
  • 33 % of teens say they have sent sexting messages.
  • 48% of teens say they have received sexting messages.
  • 44% of boys say they have received nude sexting messages of girls.
  • 15% of these same boys say they disseminate the pix out for others to view once their relationship ends with the girl.
  • One-third of young adults -- 36% of women and 31% of men ages 20-26—say they have sent or posted such images.

What Teens Don't Know Can Haunt Them a Lifetime

Most teens and even parents do not know is that sexting is a criminal act. More specifically, carries a charge of distributing child pornography. This is a charge that does not just go away. It may remain on that young person's record as a sex-offender. And in some cases this may include not just the person sending the message but the person receiving. Already there have been situations where nude photos were found on phones of elementary children, and they were charged with sex-offence.

For sure, we must make it clear to our teens that they can be prosecuted. This is a crime not to be laughed at or ignored. Just in these last few months, since the first of the year, there have been at least six states that have been investigating more than 24 teens involved in sexting. I can promise you these numbers are only going to increase exponentially.

Laws are in the making. Parents and leaders need to be in the breaking. The breaking of this damaging social dilemma our teens are in. They need us. Don't fool yourself, just because the media portrays us as idiots on TV, etc. We are in their lives to love them. Love them to make wise choices. But first WE need to make wise choices. The question is, are we?

Remember to scroll down to the bottom of the page and turn off my playlist. If this video doesn't rip your heart out, nothing will.

Let this cause you to "do" something about making life better for our young adults!

The following is supposed to be a video shown at Jesse's memorial service.

Other Sources: Tips on how to keep your teens Net safe, click here.

Click here for other articles.

And here for more detail on Jessie's story.

PHOTO: Jessie Logan found on the Net.

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