What’s most disturbing about the investigation into allegations about Prairie Ridge High School students sending nude photos of classmates via text and the Internet is the reminder of how common this behavior is.
It might not be as serious of a problem as illicit drug use or alcohol abuse, but poor decisions in one’s teen years now can be chronicled indefinitely thanks to the common communication tools that many teens carry around with them at all times.
Many parents today probably breathe a sigh of relief that there weren’t smart phones and social media sites around to record their bad ideas.
We don’t blame those parents who are nervous that their own children have no such protection.
The minor scandal doesn’t make Prairie Ridge High School unique because sexting, sadly, isn’t unique.
The lesson isn’t unique, either. A student who sends nude photos to a classmate might as well put them on the school bulletin board because control of those images is lost forever once the send key is pressed.
According to a study completed by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 20 percent of teens have electronically sent or posted nude or semi-nude images or videos of themselves – 22 percent of girls and 18 percent of boys.
In the past few years, there have been several reports of teens who committed suicide due in part to the harassment they faced at school when nude photos they intended to be sent privately to boyfriends or girlfriends were disseminated to classmates.
Besides the embarrassment of half the class seeing what was intended to be private, there are pedophiles who seek and obtain these images.
And there have been criminal cases involving sexting with girls as young as 11.
It’s become so common that Illinois and many other states changed child pornography laws so that every teen caught sexting wouldn’t be charged with felonies and be forced to register as sex offenders.
That legal change made sense. But it doesn’t make sexting any less serious of an issue for teens.
It’s not a comfortable issue to talk about, we understand that. But parents of teens and preteens should have that discussion. Let your sons and daughters know the very serious consequences of sexting.