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Cyber-Dating Out… “Sexting” In

February 11, 2009 | National News

News Image STAFFORD, Va. — Courting lovers by sending candy and flowers is passé. Teens now have found a new way to lure the object of their affection: “sexting”. Sexting is the sending of nude photos of oneself to a boyfriend, girlfriend, crush or casual acquaintance from cellular phones, with or without a sexually explicit message.

According to a study published last month, 20 percent of 13 – 19 year olds admitted to having transmitted explicit images of themselves over the phone or e-mail.  Additionally, 48 percent said that they have received sexually suggestive e-mails or text messages.  Over half the girls who “sexted” stated that it was due to pressure from boyfriends, revealed a survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

“Trust me, a lot of couples do it.  It’s just like another form of sex,” the New York Post quoted a 15-year-old high school sophomore from New Jersey as saying.  The girl confessed to having sent 40 naked pictures of herself to her ex-boyfriend in a failed attempt to win him back.

Even social networking websites have not been left untouched by this trend.  Facebook and MySpace boasts groups with names like “I’ve Sent Naked Pictures of Myself Over the Phone”, “People Who Take Naked Pictures of Themselves with Their Phones,” and “Practicing Safe Sexting”.

In fact, teens who indulge in sexting are least bothered by the maligning of their reputations. 

Recently six Pennsylvania students landed in jail after nude pictures that had circulated around their school were confiscated from a male student’s phone.

This type of activity is occurring in Stafford County.  The Stafford County Sheriff’s Office investigated 14 cases during the 2007 – 2008 school year.  From September through December, 2008 of the 2008 – 2009 school year, 8 cases were investigated.  There have been additional cases initiated since the winter vacation ended.

The Code of Virginia has specific laws prohibiting this activity.  The taking of a sexually explicit pictures of a child is manufacturing child pornography.  The transmission (sending of that picture electronically or otherwise) is distribution of child pornography.  Possessing such pictures is possession of child pornography.  The Code of Virginia, as it relates to these crimes, considers a child any person under the age of eighteen.  These crimes are felonies, maximum punishments range from 5 years to twenty years in prison.  Some of the crimes have a mandatory minimum sentence of five years that cannot be suspended or reduced. 

The Stafford County Sheriff’s Office recommends that parents be aware of their children’s activities online and on their cellular telephones, and make them aware of the possible legal consequences of these activities.  An additional factor is the potential impact that a felony conviction can have on a young persons’ future, including college and career plans.

Inquiries about this release may be directed to Detective Darryl Wells, Stafford County Sheriff’s Office, at 540-658-4450.

RELATED LINKS:
“Sexting” Shockingly Common Among Teens (CBS NEWS)

SURVEY: “Sex and Tech: Results from a Survey of Teens and Young Adults” (The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy)