A 7th grader holds her cell phone camera at arm’s length. She strikes a provocative pose. She clicks the shutter button. Moments later, that photo is on its way to her 7th grade boyfriend.
That’s what the adults call “sexting” — using a cell phone’s text messaging system to send sexy texts, photos or videos. Sometimes, the photos and videos show fully dressed teens and sometimes the young people are naked.
Cell phones make it easy to take and send such photos.Ã‚Â They also make it easy to forward those photos to hundreds of other people.
“They don’t understand the implications” of sending such photos, said Fulton Junior High School principal Donna Parkhurst. “They see it as fun.”
But what happens to that photo when the relationship ends? Sometimes, it gets passed from person to person. The right photo can wind up on national photo sharing sites. What started as a one-to-one communication of intimacy becomes public humiliation.
Parkhurst said that after she read about the issue, she knew that sexting was going on at the school and the school had to do something about it. The Junior High will host a seminar on the dangers of sexting Thursday morning at the school. Parents can opt their children out of the presentation if they contact the school.
Students will watch a documentary produced by MTV News, called Sexting In America. (The documentary is available for viewing here.) The program tells the stories of two teens who engaged in sexting and paid a high public price. One girl sent a naked photo of herself to her ex-boyfriend, who had asked for the photo. A teen boy accidentally sent a photo of himself to everyone in his cell phone’s address book. He wound up on his state’s sex offender list.
“Love is fleeting, but a sext is (forever)”, the documentary notes. One expert advises that anyone sending a sexy photo should assume it will be forwarded to the friend’s entire soccer team.
“I have dealt with some mischievous photos taken when no one is looking,” said Parkhurst.
She urges parents to watch the documentary and study the issue. “What kids see as innocent, mischievous fun can end up in Family Court,” she said.
FULTON JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL DONNA PARKHURST’S LETTER TO PARENTS ABOUT “SEXTING”
I am sure that many of you use your cell phones to text your kids, and are therefore aware of what texting is; one of the many ways that cell phones and the internet have made it easier for us to stay in touch with family members and share news and/or images. Enclosed you will find a pamphlet about what has quickly become known as Ã¢â‚¬Å“sexting,Ã¢â‚¬Â which involves sending inappropriate texts and images using electronic devices.
As you can see by the enclosed pamphlet, there are many dangers and undesirable consequences involved with the act of Ã¢â‚¬Å“sexting.Ã¢â‚¬Â Some of these dangers include bullying situations, suspensions from school, having documentation added to school records (thus potentially hurting your childÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s future in school or with a prospective employer), attracting sexual predators or even facing serious legal charges. Most of our young teenagers do not realize the seriousness of the consequences they may face if they engage in Ã¢â‚¬Å“sexting.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Earlier in the school year (December 10th) you may recall our school coming together as a community to teach about Ã¢â‚¬Å“cyber bullying;Ã¢â‚¬Â exactly what that means and the impacts. We are ready to take this one step further and teach all of our students about the seriousness of Ã¢â‚¬Å“sexting.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The morning of March 18th, your child will participate in a 40-minute discussion led by his/her homeroom teacher that will include viewing a series of four video clips. I encourage you to take the time to look at these as well, as I can assure that you will learn quite a bit, just as we did when previewing this material. The website to go to is: http://www.athinline.org/videos/17-sexting-in-america-part-1 and the series of four video clips total 21 minutes. If, for any reason, you do not wish for your son/daughter to participate in this discussion, please contact me and alternative arrangements can be made.
Many of us have regular conversations with parents about the problems that inappropriate use of technology cause. The entire FJHS faculty and staff strongly believe that the best way to address these problems is to educate you and your children as best we can, and we look forward to this learning opportunity.
As always, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
Donna L. Parkhurst