Sext Abuse: Teen epidemic of sexting can be dangerous, deadly - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Sext Abuse: Teen epidemic of sexting can be dangerous, deadly

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

"I'll show you mine, if you show me yours" is a playground proposition as old as time, but nowadays, it's a dangerous bargain. Sexting is an epidemic among young people with all kinds of bad outcomes.

A girl, who we'll refer to as Noel, is about to go off to college, but she still has a nagging worry about pictures she emailed to her boyfriend in the 9th grade.

"There was always something in the back of my mind that said, 'mm, I don't know,' but it's like he pushed for it and pushed for it and I was like, ‘ok fine,'" Noel says about sending graphic photos to her boyfriend.

Sending pictures or statements of a sexual nature electronically is known as sexting. It's not new, but it's rampant as social media explodes among young people who can now post it, tweet it or Instagram it. 40 percent of teens report that they have seen or sent a "sext" message.

"People think it's okay to send one picture to somebody and people promise ‘oh I won't send anything to anybody' but, it does get around," says Sandra Koch.

"They're kinda naive and they're like, ‘oh I trust this guy' or ‘I trust this girl,' says Gabrielle Henderson of the epidemic.

Walgreens included sexting for the first time this year in its annual contest, for teens to get other teens to make healthy sexual choices.

"They don't know the risk factors," says Martina Smith with the Walgreens Expressions Challenge. "They're sharing pieces of their body. They don't think about where these images can end up. You know, they're ending up all over the world. You know, and it's in a split second."

There are campaigns warning about the dangers of sexting, most of which focus on the embarrassment of ruined reputations at a time of life when self-image is pretty fragile.

Dr. Rachael Ross, a sexologist and family physician says we're just finding out how devastating sexting can be.

"Kids who've had this happen to them, they usually have to through extensive counseling because they don't know how to face the world after something like this happens," says Dr. Ross. "It ruins their whole world."

One tragedy in Canada is a chilling example. Four hours after posting a video, 15-year old Amanda Todd was dead. Her life had become unbearable after someone she met online convinced her to raise her blouse up. He took a screen shot of her naked breasts and sent it to everyone she knew. Amanda was ridiculed and stalked and bullied at school and online, which is where she posted her silent suicide message. That message has since gone viral and educators hope other youngsters are watching.

"The problem is, folks can't control what happens to the imagery after they send it," says Yamani Hernandez, Executive Director of Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health. "It's more dangerous for young people who are developing their sense of self, and their self-image and they wanna feel supported and loved and respected."

Noel and her family are grateful that her moment of indiscretion was caught early, by a nosy little sister and the boys' family made sure he deleted the pictures.

"The only way that this did not become a disaster for my daughter is because the boy had a strong family," says Noel's mother. "As far as I know, he was the only one who saw the image. I've never ever heard of anyone else seeing the image."

Researchers at the Internet Watch Foundation traced more than 12,000 sexted messages between teens and nine out of ten of those ended up on child porn sites.

"There are pirates out there, looking for pictures of young girls and young boys that they can actually use for their own sexual gratification," says Rachael. "And that's really scary."

"It does shock me because it was never intended for that purpose, it was always supposed to be between two people, me and him," says Noel.

Ironically, operators of child porn sites never seem to get caught and punished, but more and more teens are finding themselves in legal trouble. Just last week, Munster High School disciplined nearly a dozen students for sexting. Eight of those students are now facing charges in juvenile court, and two are in the adult criminal justice system.


Informational links:

Expressions Challengewebsite:

TheExpressions Challenge motivates teens to voice their opinion on topicsincluding: Sexting, Self-Esteem, Teen Pregnancy, STD prevention, Abstinence, andSexual Responsibility Awareness.

IllinoisCaucus for Adolescent Health website:

ICAH is a network of empowered youth and alliedadults who transform public consciousness and increase the capacity of family,school and healthcare systems to support the sexual health, rights andidentities of youth.

The Sex-Ed Loop:

ChicagoPublic Schools' program The Sex-Ed Loop is a destination for reliable youth sexeducation and is a place for all youth to receivecomprehensive, medically-accurateand up-to-date information on sexualhealth, rights andidentity. 


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