With technology continuing to evolve at a rapid-fire pace, “Sexting,” or the act of sending explicit video, picture or text messages to another person, is also gaining steam — especially amongst teenagers.
According to DoSomething.org, a youth advocacy organization, 22 percent of teens between ages 14 and 17 have “sexted” and 33 percent of college students between 18 and 24 have also done so.
To help combat this growing trend, the Iowa State Patrol has been partnering with local schools to teach students the consequences and risks associated with sexting. Iowa State Trooper Doug Cutts has been conducting these talks with freshmen at Newton Senior High School for several years and on Wednesday, he spoke to two classes.
“We are here to talk about these lovely things, that you are all carrying,” Cutts told the students as he held up a cell phone. “A cell phone is a nice tool, but it also can get you into a lot of trouble. Yes, I’m talking about ‘that’ topic — the sexting issue.”
“Does it happen in the school district? Yes. Did it happen last year at the middle school? Yes. This stuff is going on out there,” he continued.
Cutts informed the students they shouldn’t be sexting, because not only will the photo or video be around forever, but where it could wind up.
“It ends up on the Internet and now you have to start worrying about those predators that are out there,” Cutts said. “It is child pornography. You are under the age of 18; therefore, you just produced child pornography. If that person has no clothes on, that is child pornography right then and there.”
“You just violated state, local, (and) federal laws very quickly out there,” he continued.
Cutts provided examples of cases where people have been charged with crimes that stemmed from sexting, including incidents that took place in Boone County, at Southeast Polk High School and in Independence.
According to Cutts, a lot of the pressure for teens to “sext” stems from their peers and a desire to be accepted. He said a lot of teens rarely think of the consequences that hitting send on a cell phone can have down the line.
He also pointed out that applications like “Snapchat,” where senders can limit how long a multimedia message can be viewed, are ineffective due to screenshot capabilities present on most smart phones.
“Have fun and be a teenager,” Cutts said. “But stop and think about how what you’re doing is going is going to impact your life down the road.”