Potential consequences of “sexting” were brought to light to Sibley East High School students recently in a program presented by Assistant Sibley County Attorney Bryce Ehrman and GFW School Resource Officer Tracy Hewett. Ehrman and Hewett met with Senior High students by grade level on Wednesday, March 24.
Sexting is a verb, and is defined as sexually suggestive text messaging via mobile devices, such as a cellular phone.
Possible consequences of sexting, as highlighted by Ehrman, include jeopardizing future employment and college admission, relationship problems, mental health issues/suicide, violating school rules, and legal issues.
Several different levels of charges may be filed in sexting cases, Ehrman explained. These include felony, gross misdemeanor, misdemeanor, and civil action. Some of the potential charges may be use of minors in sexual performance, possession of pornographic work, distribution of obscene materials, dissemination of harmful materials, interference with privacy, indecent exposure, disorderly conduct, and civil action – use of minor in sexual performance.
Ehrman said that he has had cases referred to him that involved sexting. He has not charged sexting out as a crime yet, he said. “Kids don’t understand their actions,” Ehrman said. “I don’t think the education piece is there.” Each instance is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, whether or not education is needed or if the case should go to juvenile court, he explained.
Sexting is more prevalent than thought. According to information made available through the Juvenile Law Committee of the County Attorney’s Association, one out of five teenagers has sent nude or semi-nude pictures or videos of themselves. 71% of teen girls and 67% of teen boys who have sent sexually suggestive content say they have sent this to a boyfriend or girlfriend.
Forty-four percent of teens say it is common for sexting to be shared with people other than the intended recipient.
Forty percent of teenagers have reported that they have had a sexually suggestive message shown to them.
There are several reasons why teenagers send these types of messages. They include pressure from boys and friends, as a joke, for fun or to be flirtatious, feel sexy or as a sexy present, to bully or harass, or to get attention.
To help with this issue, Ehrman encourages educating students and parents on the consequences, engaging in conversations, and enforcing school rules and policies. “It is good for parents to be aware of,” Ehrman said. “Have conversations with your kids. I don’t want to see these cases.”
The pair has also given the presentation at GFW High School. They are also considering giving the presentation to Junior High students.
“I thought it was great information for students to be aware of,” Senior High Principal Jim Amsden said. “Sometimes they do not realize that some of the things they do on the spur of the moment could have such long term effects. It also provides parents information to think about when they make the decision to provide a cell phone to their student.”