Here's a scene: you're out with a bunch of your girlfriends, and a guy sends you a text with a topless photo of one of your classmates, a straight A student, captain of the debate team, and all-around "good girl." "What a slut," one girl says. Another says, "No, she sent it to her boyfriend so he'd think about her when he was on his ski trip last weekend. I can't believe he'd forward it to his friends! What a jerk!" The conversation continues and you call the girl in the picture and tell her what happened. Ashamed and embarrassed, she breaks up with him and feels miserable.
The next week at school, you are caught texting in homeroom. The teacher takes your cell phone to give back to you at the end of the day. "Oh great," you think. "Now they'll call my parents, and I'll get grounded."
A few hours later, you get called to the principal's office. Your parents are there. The police are there. They're holding your cell phone. The photo of your friend is on it. "Why are the police here," you're wondering. "What's going on?" The room swims. This is one seriously freaky moment.
The media calls it "sexting," but teens who take and send pictures, write sexy messages or even forward messages, think it's innocent fun. But here's the thing: Sending sexy pics of yourself or your friends or even forwarding pics of other people comes with "sexting consequences" and could get you into a whole mess of trouble.
Why are there sexting consequences? There are two big reasons.
Sexting consequence 1
It's illegal. The girl in the photo can be charged with child pornography. If she is convicted, she will have to register as a sex offender for years; she may end up in a juvenile detention facility. Not to mention that this straight A student will have a tough time getting into a good college or securing a good future. Your friend who sent you the text can be charged for sending the message, and you can be charged for keeping it on your cell phone.
Even if her boyfriend kept the picture private, his phone could still get into unwanted hands—of parents, teachers, other kids at school—and parents, teachers, and police can get involved.
In moments, someone's idea to send a simple picture can become something that can change your life forever, in a very uncool way.
Sexting consequence 2
It's embarrassing. The girl in the photo meant her picture for her boyfriend's eyes only, but that's not how it ended up. Once something's on a cell phone, it can be forwarded, uploaded, downloaded, edited, and passed around the Internet and around the world. While the girl in the photo meant her picture for her boyfriend, if they break up, he'll still have the photo and can do whatever he wants with it. Sexting consequences have included teens who have attempted suicide, and one girl recently succeeded in taking her own life because her photo was forwarded to everyone in her school. Nothing is worth that type of embarrassment. Ever.
Pics and vids can get me caught but words can never harm me, right?
So, you get that you can't send dirty pictures over cell phones, but what about texting? There are sexting consequences for text messages also. Flirting over text messages or IM can be innocent enough, but late at night or in the heat of the moment, it can turn more sexual.
Many teens admit to having text conversations that talk about what they'd like to do with or for another person sexually. Most people feel safe sending text messages—they're just words and you're not talking face-to-face. It seems like there's no way to get hurt by it. It feels innocent. But here's the thing: Sending sexual or suggestive text messages, even if they're just words, can also get you into a lot of trouble.
Sexting consequences include:
- You can get called on for what you're texting. The person you're texting can take it as a promise or an invitation to put your words into action. They might pressure or even force you to do the things you've been typing about. This could lead to doing things you're not ready to do, or possibly even being forced to do something you would never do, and that's just not worth it.
- Texts can be (and often are) forwarded to people outside of the conversation. When text messages about sex acts are between a minor and someone over 18 or even between two minors, it's against the law.
So, bottom line: never put anything in writing or on camera that you don't want the whole school, your parents, or the police to see. Keep it clean, keep it safe, keep it real.