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Northwest campaign shows sexting can ruin teens’ lives

Children of the Street Society, based in Vancouver, B.C., uses a popular video technique of white cards with hand-drawn black letters to flip through a message about the dangers of sending sexting - sending sexual images through text. (Photo: Screen grab from YouTube video)

“I sent a photo to someone I trusted and now, thousands of people I don’t know, know me.”

Children of the Street Society, based in Vancouver, B.C., uses a popular video technique of white cards with hand-drawn black letters to flip through that message.

In this case, the message is made clear as the camera pulls back to reveal the girl on multiple smartphone screens – sexting, sending photos to someone, isn’t smart.

“In recent years it has become very apparent that the issue of sexual exploitation has shifted online, and is continuously evolving due to the advancement and accessibility of technology,” Diane Sowden, Executive Director of Children of the Street Society says in a statement. “This campaign is intended to raise awareness that, when you are online, there is no such thing as sharing just one photo.”

The sexting YouTube ad is called, “Just One Photo.”

I showed it to a group of high school students. They didn’t seem fazed by it.

“Girl has some bad friends,” one young man laughed.

That was probably nervous laughter. There was a lot of it in the room. Teens really, really don’t like talking about sexting with adults.

“It’s no big deal,” one girl says. “If you take the picture in the right way there’s no way to identify who it is anyway.”

A lot of adults think that too. Case study, Anthony Weiner, a married U.S. Congressman who resigned after admitting to sexting with a women he’d met online.

In a more recent case, last week Knoxville police arrested two more teenagers in connection with a case in which a 15-year-old girl was videotaped performing oral sex on a 19-year-old man. Each teen had disseminated the video to at least one other person, police said.

In Iowa, the former executive director of a group that assists disabled people was fired last fall after he sent 11,000 texts and admitted he helped stage and photograph intimate encounters between a female volunteer and her boyfriend.

When teens are caught sexting, judges are put in a tough situation. For example, a 14-year-old who sends a nude photo of herself to her boyfriend can be charged under laws that were written with adult pedophiles in mind.

It’s a felony under most state laws to distribute sexually explicit material featuring a minor, and in some instances, police say, a teen who does so would have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life because he technically engaged in child pornography.

Currently, Washington state does not a have a specific statute for sexting offenses. In general, anyone – regardless of age – who produces, distributes sexual images of a minor would face felony charges.

When I talked with the high school students about how they could get in trouble with the law for sexting, they seemed to pay attention more than when they thought they’d just get in trouble with their parents.

“That’s serious stuff,” says one boy.


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