Thursday, March 26, 2009

Beware "Sexting"

Do we have your attention again? Here's a message from HoCo police posted on the school system's e-mail newsletter....

Parents of all middle and school students,

The Howard County Police Department wants to make you aware of a practice known as "sexting" that has been increasing in among area teenagers. "Sexting" involves teens using cell phones to send sexually charged materials like photos or videos of themselves to others, usually boyfriends or girlfriends.

It has become common for these images to be forwarded from the intended recipient to others and, in some cases, posted on the Internet. Some of these cases already have been brought to the attention of school administrators and the police department.

The police and school officials are concerned that Howard County is seeing similar “sexting” patterns as those being observed around the nation. Nationally, 39 percent of teens are sending or posting sexually suggestive messages, and 48 percent reported receiving such messages, according to a recent national study.

Many teens do not understand the risk posed by this practice. We are sharing this information so as parents you can be aware of this behavior and we are urging you to talk with your teen. Please let them know that this behavior is not only unhealthy and dangerous, it may be criminal. Teens involved in sending or receiving these types of images of anyone under the age of 18 could face child pornography charges. Penalties are serious, with fines of up to $10,000, ten years in prison, or both.

Our goal is not to arrest and charge teens, although in some cases such charges may be appropriate. But we do want to significantly reduce the practice of "sexting" in our teenage population. We think this can only be accomplished with parental involvement and we are asking for your help as our partners in this effort.

We are encouraging you to check your child's cell phone and e-mail account for content of this nature. If you believe your child, or any other, may be a victim of this practice, we encourage you to save the images and call the Howard County Police Department at 410-313-2200.

For more information, parents and teens can go here.

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