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Detective warns against dangers of youth sexting
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Technology has brought us new ways to communicate, including electronically through texting, e-mail, chat rooms and social media such as Facebook. Photos and videos can be sent over a cell phone. While all of this technology can provide real benefits, Great Bend Police Detective Heather Smith said that young people need to be warned of the dangers of one form of electronic communication, a practice known as "sexting."

The term sexting refers to electronically sending or posting nude or partially nude images. It has become more widely known in the aftermath of married Congressman Anthony Weiner using the social media website Twitter to send a suggestive picture to a 21-year-old woman. That scandal resulted in his resigning from Congress.

Because electronic messages don’t always remain private, sexting can prove embarrassing at any age. When it involves minors, the law also has something to say about it.

According to information from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, youths are also engaging in sexting. One survey showed 1 in 5 teenagers reported having sent a sexually suggestive image or message.

If a minor a girl takes a nude photo of herself and sends it to her boyfriend, she may be charged with production and distribution of pornography. And if the boyfriend forwards the image to someone else, both he and the person who receives it may face the same charges.

And, according to the Center’s NetSmartz Workshop (, there may be social consequences as well as legal ones. "The image may follow them forever, damaging academic, social and employment opportunities." Sexting may also affect the emotional and psychological development of a child. Trust is broken if an "ex" takes revenge by forwarding a seemingly private message to someone else.

"It can be very scary," Smith said. Young people should consider the consequences of sending inappropriate text and photos, and should also consider that if they engage in inappropriate behavior at a party, someone else may snap a photo or video. "Think of how many people would have access to it."

What parents can do

NetSmartz offers advice to parents who want to prevent their child from sexting: Parents should set house rules for online and cell phone conduct. From time to time, review expectations for behavior, and the consequences for failing to meet those expectations, such as limiting access to the Web and texting.

"Make it absolutely clear to youth that the moment they send a digital image of themselves from their cell phone, they completely lose control of what happens to it next."