A new phenomena being labeled "sexting" is erupting in the United States and abroad, and it's putting unwitting teens at risk of life changing consequences.
It usually starts with a nude photo of an underage girlfriend or boyfriend, typically under the umbrella of the perceived safety of a relationship. When things go sour however, the no holds barred drama of high school relationships sometimes bring the imagery out and into a more public light.
For those that take nude photographs while in their high school relationships, the risks are immense. Risks like felony charges with potential jail time, permanent registration and exposure as a sexual predator, and the shame of facing such serious charges before adulthood even begins.
According to a recent article published by the Sun-Sentinel, the number of incidents of teens being charged with child pornography related felonies is on the rise. In one case covered by the story, a Phillip Alpert sent nude photographs taken of his then 16-year-old girlfriend to others after a breakup. Just three days later, authorities arrested him with charges of transmitting child pornography. Alpert avoided jailtime for his crime, but is now under five years of probation and must register as a sex offender until he turns 43.
Teen girls face the same risks, even if the pictures are taken of themselves in the nude. In one recent case just last month, a 15-year-old girl in Pennsylvania was charged with creating child pornography after sending inappropriate images to a 27-year-old on MySpace.
With the law blind to young love and a national study showing that up to 20% of teens have been photographed either nude or semi-nude, the risks are immense for both teen boys and girls alike. The number of teens facing charges is expected to increase significantly over time as technology like digital cameras and camera phones continue to infiltrate teen life.
Perhaps it is time for parents to add another chapter to the story of the birds and the bees.