While accepting the MTV Generation Award at the 2011 MTV Movie Awards on Sunday night, Reese Witherspoon (pictured here) proudly told the audience that good girls can still make it in Hollywood, adding that people should learn to keep their faces covered when taking naked pictures of themselves on their cellphones. When it comes to sexting, the act of sending sexually explicit text messages or pictures to another person, more and more teenagers are finding themselves in legal trouble. Is “hide your face” the advice we should really be listening to? While Reese Witherspoon may be nonchalant towards sexting, the judicial system has, in the past, taken a much stricter approach, classifying the activity as child pornography.
In 2010, Davis County, Utah reported that its courtrooms saw at least one case a week of teenagers as young as seventh grade involved in some sort of sexting. Recently, however, more than a dozen states have chosen to stray from the protocol of charging sexting as criminal activity and instituting educational reform programs mandatory to teach the consequences of sending nude photos as well as safe internet practices. New York State’s general assembly recently introduced a bill called the “Cyber Crime Youth Rescue Act”, a bill which calls for one such educational course designed to highlight the permanent and legal consequences of sending sexually suggestive material over the internet.
This change in procedure highlights not only the rising trend of sexting but the dangers that often follow. Since these pictures are frequently shared beyond the person intended to receive it, bullying and insults are prone to follow. In 2009, a Florida teen unfortunately took her own life after a topless photo she had sent to her boyfriend was distributed throughout the school. According to a 2008 survey conducted by the National Campaign:
- 20% of teenagers had sent or posted naked pictures of themselves over the internet.
- 44% of teenagers admit it was ordinary for sexually suggestive text messages to be shared with people other than the original recipient.
- 17% of the sexting recipients surveyed report that they have passed the images along to someone else.
- 55% of those who passed the images to someone else say they shared them with more than one person.
What Can You Do?
- Survey students at your school asking what they think should be done about sexting.
- Create a video alerting viewers of the dangers behind sending explicit photos.