Op/Ed 2/26/10

Think before you sext: Consequences are severe

By Molly Beaver
Roar Reporter

  Sexting is the act of sending or receiving sexually explicit photos. In California sexting among minors is considered as the manufacturing, possession and distribution of child pornography, a felony in the United States.
  Teens convicted under California penal code 311.11 can receive a sentence of up to three years in prison and a fine of $2,500. Convicted teens will also have to register as sex offenders. Sexters run the risk of having sexual photos of themselves posted on the Internet, where friends and family, as well as colleges, employers and complete strangers can easily view them. Aside from facing severe legal ramifications, teens who sext are susceptible to humiliation.
  Many parents and schools refuse to believe that their teens are sexting. However, a national survey by the National Campaign to Support Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy shows that 20 percent of teens participated in sexting. A web survey by TRU, “a global leader in research on tweens teens and twenty somethings,” found these numbers are greater. Its survey revealed that 39 percent of teens have sent a sext, and 48 percent have received a sext.
  While even Sierra Valley adults might think this is not happening here, a recent survey has proven that teens who sext here compare statistically with those in national figures.
In a survey conducted this month by The Grizzlies’ Roar, it was found that 30 percent of Loyalton students have forwarded or shared sexts with friends.
  The survey also found that 31 percent of students have sent a sext and 49 percent have received a sext.
  Some students seem to believe that sexting isn’t something they need to worry about. One surveyor commented, “It is what it is, don’t worry about it.”
  Others made remarks like, “I [heart] sexting!”
  The way law enforcement officials handle sexting among teens is still under debate. One New York lawyer petitioned for a federal legislation to make sexting a misdemeanor for minors. Since 2009 eleven states have passed or are considering bills aimed at sexting. California however, is still treating teen sexters as pedophiles.
  In any case, it’s clear that sexting is not something to treat lightly, as it can have serious consequences. A reputation or clean legal record can be wiped out with one single click on a cell phone.
  Loyalton High School students: If you send texts, forward texts or pressure others to do the same, the following consequences could happen to you.

  • You could be convicted of a felony, which means you would NOT be able to collect financial aid for college and you would have a very hard time getting a good job. Felony convictions have to be declared on all job applications—it’s a label you do NOT want. For most Loyalton students this means they would NOT be able to afford attending college.
  • You could face jail or prison time.
  • You could have to pay a large fine, as well as legal defense and court expenses.
  • You would have to register as a sex offender—and thus be posted on such websites as Megan’s Law (www.meganslaw.ca.gov), the website that posts names of sex offenders in the state of California. Other states have similar websites.
  • You could suffer from humiliation. While you might think such an act would gain you popularity, the greater likelihood is that you would LOSE friends and certainly the respect of many people.
  • You could also humiliate your parents and your family with a bad reputation.
  • You could also lose the privilege of having a cell phone—either decided by the court or by your family.
  • In other words, it’s a pretty juvenile practice. Think twice before you send any kinds of cell phone messages and pictures, as well as through the Internet.

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