Teens sending sexually explicit photos of themselves via social media and messaging has become so commonplace that the act has a name: sexting. 28% of teens say that they have sent explicit photos to peers while 60% say they have been asked for them, reports Teresa Watanabe for the LA Times.
Due to the prevalence of this phenomenon, teens fail to realize the legal and social ramifications of sexting. Los Angeles schools are looking to change that frame of mind with a new educational campaign targeted at sexting.
“We’re really trying to get the message out that before you push that send button, please think about what it may mean to you — not just the criminal factor but the embarrassment, your future employment, college entrance. What you do now matters, and they need to understand that,” Zipperman said.
While more than 20 other states have enacted legislation in attempt to dissuade teens from sexting, the LA Unified School district wants to take an educational approach. The campaign will include videos, lesson plans, and handouts that aim to teach students the dangers of sexting, writes CBS Los Angeles. With consequences ranging from child pornography violations to personal consequences, it’s important to get teens to stop and think about what they are doing before they hit send.
According to Erin Fitzpatrick from Refinery29, the school district hopes that creating awareness through education will be more effective than punishment in preventing sexting.
The district plans to invite parents to watch the video in order to facilitate a conversation with their children about sexting. Jeff Temple, an associate professor and psychologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch, stresses the importance of giving students facts without exaggerated information about the risks involved in sexting.
“If there was a rule, policy or law against sexting, then most likely everyone in school will be arrested,”[ a high school student] said, adding that he gets at least a few such texts a day, most of them cartoons, animations or forwarded photos of people he doesn’t personally know. “At this point, it’s so normal.”
While few students have been arrested in other states that have policies against sexting, large numbers of students have faced legal ramifications for sending around explicit photos. 19 teens and one adult in New Jersey were arrested for spreading nude photos of a female student, and in Illinois two eighth-graders were arrested by local police for allegedly taking part in a”sexting ring” involving two dozen students ranging in age from 11 to 14 who shared nude photos of themselves.
“The whole purpose of this campaign,” he said, “is to educate people that this is serious stuff.”