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Identifying and Preventing Sexting Among Minors

When Sexting Becomes Deadly: An 18-year old girl committed suicide by hanging herself after a nude photo she sent her boyfriend spread around her school. After the young victim and her boyfriend broke up he sent the photo to some girls and the image quickly spread. This led to girls all around the school bullying the victim by calling her names and even physically accosting her. The girl’s mother and school officials were aware of the bullying, but could not do enough to stop it. Eventually the abuse became too much and she took her own life. The girl’s mother pursued legal action against the school and her daughter’s tormentors.

What is Sexting?

Sexting is the sending or receiving of sexually suggestive images. Sexts traditionally involve the sending or receiving of nude or semi-nude images via cell phones to romantic partners or interests. SextingThis is not always the case, however, as the term sexting has come to include the transfer of images over email, social media, and video chat.

There is nothing inherently dangerous about two consenting adults send sexually-suggestive photos or messages; the real danger comes when these images are taken by minors and then leave the hands of their intended recipient and spread quickly among peer groups. The use of cell phones and the internet has made it possible for the private images to spread almost instantly and make it almost impossible to track and delete them.

Ways to Prevent Sexting

Typically, sexting takes place in private and is therefore difficult to prevent, but the spread of sexts and the bullying that ensues occurs within schools and other organizations. The largest ramification from having a sext exposed, aside from the embarrassment, is the bullying and cyber-bullying that ensues. Browse our loss control resources for more information on preventing, recognizing, and responding to bullying and cyber-bullying.

If a sexting incident is uncovered within your organization there are a few steps you can take in an attempt to help reduce the damage as well as protect your organization.

  1. If you or anyone in your organization uncovers a sext make sure to never forward, copy, transmit, download, store, transfer, or share the image in any way with a non-law enforcement individual. Any of the aforementioned actions may lead to felony child pornography charges if the images are of a minor, even if the sharing occurred with the best intentions. Criminal charges can still apply even if the image is of someone over the age of 18.
  2. Another way to avoid any negative legal ramifications is to only confiscate devices suspected of containing sexually suggestive images and then allow law enforcement personnel to search the device.
  3. If a sexting situation is uncovered, one of the first steps should be to identify and contact the victim and make their families aware of the situation. Again, do not share the images. Leave that up to law enforcement.
  4. The next step should be to identify the individuals that disseminated the images. Once identified, it will be easier to determine how much it spread and how many people are involved. Inform the guardians of the kids involved.
  5. Finally, contact law enforcement so they can conduct a thorough investigation, review texts, check call logs to help control the spread of images, and help delete all those that exist.
  6. All organizations should have a clear anti-bullying/anti-harassment policy that spells out a zero-tolerance policy for distributing sexting images and states that cell phones and computers can be confiscated and searched if a suspected incident has occurred.

Topics: YMCA, Youth Programs