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'Sexting' trend growing among teens

July 15, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
So-called "sexting" is a growing trend among America's teens. Sexting is when teens send nude or semi-nude photos to someone else in a text message. For one teen, the consequences of sexting were devastating."Do you want me to tell you what she was called? Porn queen, slut, whore, pig," said Cynthia Logan, whose daughter was bullied.

A nude photo of Jessica was sent to one boy's cell phone. However, it was then sent to hundreds of others. No one knew Jessica's pain until it was too late. Cynthia says the bullying drove her 18-year-old daughter, Jessica, to commit suicide.

"She came to me for so many things, but not this," said Cynthia.

A national survey found one in five teens takes part in sexting.

"I've received messages from guys that described things that I did not need to read," said Rachel Mock, a 17 year old. "Sex is meant to be personal, not via technology."

Child psychiatrist Doctor Laurel Williams says teens "sext" to get attention and feel accepted, but they don't always think about the consequences.

"They don't make the connection between what they want to do now, in this second, and what might be the repercussions down the road," said Dr. Williams.

For example, sexting can lead to criminal charges.

"When a teen sends a nude picture, or takes a nude picture of themselves, they're actually producing child pornography. And if they send it, they're now distributing child pornography," said Patti Agatston, PhD Licensed Professional Counselor and Cyber Bullying Expert.

"This one girl did it at my school and it was as huge thing ... and the police ended up having to get involved," said Kaitlin, a 15 year old.

Parents can be proactive by searching for their teen's name in the search engine Google. Be sure to put their name in quotes to find information about them on the Internet. In addition, make sure they keep their Facebook page private.

You can also set a "Google Alert" to notify you if new information is posted.

For Cynthia and her daughter Jessica, the advice came too late. However, Cynthia is working with lawmakers to create new laws targeting teens who sext. She hopes to see appropriate court-ordered punishment for teens that take part in sexting.

Experts say parents need to warn teens that nothing is truly anonymous. They say even if you delete your text, they can still be traced back to the sender.

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