Sexting banned in schools: Shouldn't this be obvious?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  August 27, 2009 10:30 AM

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It seems obvious to us as parents: Like emails and anything you post to Facebook, text messages can go public in an instant. But while we're thinking of private information like social security numbers and credit card codes, some teenagers (and even tweens) are sending, receiving, and forwarding something far more personal: nude and semi-nude pictures of themselves.

It's called sexting, and it's become such a problem that the school board in Houston, Texas, has taken steps to ban it. Though, frankly, the fact that kids need the rules spelled out on this boggles my mind. It's like we have to add another line to the litany of Don'ts that we recite to our children: Don't drink and drive. Don't do drugs. Don't have unprotected sex. (In fact, don't have sex at all, if possible, OK? Thanks.) Don't be rude. Don't be disrespectful. Oh, and don't take any nude photos of yourself and then send them to your friends in a text message, mmmm kay?

It's easy -- even comfortable -- to think, "Oh, my child would NEVER do that." But according to a recent study by The National Campaign on sex and technology, 21 percent of teenage girls and 18 percent of teenage boys in the United States have sent text messages, posted images, or shared online video clips showing themselves nude or semi-nude.

In fact, it's so prevalent that kids are running into trouble with existing laws. Nude photos of a minor are considered child pornography -- even if the minor child took the photos herself, even if it was consensual, and even if the photos were received, or shared, by another minor. Vermont is considering making sexually explicit text messages shared between teenagers legal -- yes, legal -- in order to avoid having teenagers classified as sex offenders for sending a nude or semi-nude photo of themselves to another teen.

No matter what you say to your teens, ultimately they have to make their own decisions -- and for all they look like adults, they're kids, so their decisions aren't always going to be good ones. Aside from giving your child a cell phone that doesn't have camera capabilities -- and that's more difficult that you'd think, nowadays -- what can parents do to prevent kids from sexting on the sly?

Check your bill. When is your child most active on his or her cell phone? Take a close look at your bill and, if the charges are being racked up during school hours, consider a family ban on cell phone use during those times. This also means that you shouldn't be texting them during class; if there's an emergency or you need to speak to them right away, try to reach them during lunch instead.

Check the school's cell phone policies. Talk to teachers and administrators, and be willing to work with them to reduce all texting during school hours. Can students carry cell phones, but be required to keep them turned off during the school day? Would the school be willing to designate certain times -- like lunch -- as available for talking or texting?

Check your child's phone. I'll be honest with you: The thought of doing this makes me squirm. But, frankly, your child's well being is more important than her right to privacy, especially if you're dealing with a 13- or 14-year-old (yes, kids that young are sexting, too). Is she deleting her text messages right away? To which numbers does he most often send or forward text messages? How can you monitor their cell phone activity?

Check with your cell phone company. Can they limit texting during certain hours, or certain days? Can you ban or block certain numbers from your child's phone? Can you adjust the data plan to allow text messages but not images?

Lest anyone think that sexting is just another silly prank, something along the lines of passing notes at school, or a case of kids being hormonal kids and wearing a too-tiny bikini at the beach, think again. Just last year, 18-year-old Jessica Logan committed suicide after her boyfriend circulated nude pictures of her that she had sent to him via text message.

Of course sexting should be banned in schools. I hope other cities follow Houston's lead. (Boston: I'm talking to you.)

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at lalphonse@globe.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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56 comments so far...
  1. The fact we are even willing to ruin the lives of teenagers over something as stupid as sexting by putting them on a public registry is ludicrous. What's wrong with thise country?

    Posted by The One August 27, 09 10:49 AM
  1. It's one thing to ban it. It's entirely something else to stop it...which you can't. The genie is out of the bottle folks. Until it becomes completely "not cool" among kids, it's not going to stop. And it's not like this is a rampant thing anyway. 21% for girls and 18% for boys....statistically speaking, it is in fact safe to say, "Oh, my child would NEVER do that!"

    Posted by sebekemsaf August 27, 09 12:28 PM
  1. My wife and I actually refused the package with Texting, and told our 14 yr daughter old that if a text message shows up on the bill she will lose the phone. Unfortunately Facebook and Aiim are a problem for us. One problem at a time I guess. We are so mean, we won't let her go to Six Flags with an online friend and his father...Right

    Posted by allriledup August 27, 09 12:42 PM
  1. It should be obvious, but unfortunately many teens keep making the same mistake. A major problem in this is that, like with Jessica Logan, teens send these pictures to their boyfriends, thinking they're in love and that the pictures will stay between the two of them. Considering how brief high school relationships can be, it's not surprising the pictures get out.

    Good advice on keeping tabs on phone records, though. It doesn't take that much effort, and it could tip parents off about potentially dangerous behavior.

    http://childrenshospitalblog.org/

    Posted by Annie August 27, 09 01:53 PM
  1. This is enough to make a saint swear. My mother never had these issues to deal with. How is it these kids think this sexting nonsense is a great idea? Does no one have common sense and decency any more?

    Posted by sparky August 27, 09 01:56 PM
  1. 1 in 5 kids sexting is not considered rampant?? egads.

    Posted by doesitmatter August 27, 09 02:19 PM
  1. Look into kajeet! kajeet a cell phone service just for kids. They offer parents amazing parental controls including the ability to restrict times that kids can send/receive call and text messages. 2 of my children have kajeet phones and we have them set up so that calls and texts cannot be made during school hours or after 9pm. (Of course, we white listed 911 and mom and dad's cell numbers. They'll go through any time day or night for emergency purposes)

    On our younger son's phone we have the restrictions set even higher. Currently only mom, dad, grandma and a few select others can call/text his cell phone at any time. There's no reason for anyone else to be contacting him. As he grows and matures we'll give him a little more access.

    We're currently looking at adding our 3rd boy onto a kajeet plan.

    Posted by Kristen August 27, 09 02:37 PM
  1. I'd like to ban bad weather on my vacation, the days getting shorter in the winter, people being rude and traffic congestion. I'd also like everyone in the world to get along in perfect harmony. It also would be fantastic if there was really a Santa Claus, Easter Bunny and a tooth fairy.

    Sadly, none of these things are going to happen. Kids will keep making stupid decisions, too. When I was a teen, though, you actually had to be present when someone did something stupid. Education and mentoring of your kids is likely the only possible thing. And appropriate punishment. I hope to God the sex offender thing doesn't stick, that can make a stupid decision have an effect on all sorts of things later on for the kid doing one stupid act.

    Posted by K August 27, 09 02:52 PM
  1. It bothers you to look at your kids phone? Get over it - my kids know that any time, any place, I will look at it, take it temporarily, or permanently. You need to let them know you are watching...

    Posted by ME August 27, 09 03:00 PM
  1. This whole thing is totally ridiculous... you can't ban "sexting" anymore than you can ban teen sexuality as a whole. As much as today's parents don't want to hear it, their children are not genetically programmed to remain kids until they are 21 - which seems to be the limit of childhood these days though that limit is ever expanding. Teens are going to express sexual curiosity, there is no simply no way around it. "Sexting" is just today's manifestation of this curiosity.

    Stop it with these ridiculous bans and own up to your parental responsibilities to talk about sex with your children. "The talk" just needs to expand to include the dangers of sexting along with real sex. Parents - get educated and get talking and stop putting the responsibility on the public school system to control your children.

    Posted by Scott August 27, 09 03:08 PM
  1. To The One...... you're a moron! If it's the only way to get kids to listen because parents aren't being parents, then so be it. When I was a teen, there were no cell phones. Parents had an emergency, they called the school and you got called to the office. We all survived just fine, and by the way, both of my parents worked. People lived and functioned just fine without having to take that call or send that text message (all the while risking not only your life but every life that happens to be within accident distance of you on the roadway). No one is above it all. And your teen, least of all. It's up to parents to do their job, which is parent. If your kid does get a cell phone, there have to be rules, and a violation of those rules means the cell phone goes away indefinitely. Texting, nice option but not necessary. Therefore, until your kids figure out that it's dangerous, as parents, you get to monitor the phone bill every month and keep an eye on what your kid is doing, both online and off. If parents actually parented, the schools wouldn't have to.

    Posted by kitefler252 August 27, 09 03:09 PM
  1. ME I agree - granted, my oldest kids are only 11 but the expectation is to expect no privacy. Right now their use of technology is limited - my son has only internet access in the family room and other than that, no cell phone, facebook, etc. while my step-daughter does have a cell phone and a myspace page(!) and they know that I can and do check up on their web surfing, her cell phone calls and texts, etc. I expect that things will change a lot in the next couple of years but parental controls and monitoring software are there for a reason and I'll have no qualms about using them until I can be sure that my kids are capable of using good judgment with personal tech (or move out).

    Posted by Jen August 27, 09 04:31 PM
  1. I think it should be a no brainer to make it legal frankly. It's rediculous we have to criminalize every bit of bad behavior in the world. Just because some a girl killed herself doesn't make every teenage boy that manages to see a breast a sex offender. If you are so worried your kid will be doing this here's a hint - don't buy them a stinking cell phone.

    Posted by Andre August 27, 09 04:34 PM
  1. Yes it's very stupid, because everyone is going to end up seeing the pictures. Then the sender will be embarassed. But that's their fault.

    But guess what. Sex wasn't invented yesterday, even for kiddies. You just heard about it a lot less because there was no instant communication, fewer people, and the kids were out in the middle of the woods with nobody around.

    Perhaps this way is better: At least the recipient can take care of business without direct contact.

    Vermont is right. You do not want kids to get labeled sex offenders for doing what they always have and always will do. Disgusting that the author would criticize Vermont for this. But of course if the author has children, and they get labeled sex-offenders for sexting, I'm sure the author would be writing articles about how that is unfair.

    This country's disgusting, unabashed, and self-righteous hypocrisy is getting to me.

    Posted by D August 27, 09 04:49 PM
  1. hmmm - correct me if I am wrong, but "sexting" IS already banned. It falls under the child pornography laws and is illegal. One conviction and your kid ends up a registered sex offender for the rest of his/her life. Ignorance is no defense, charges have been mulled over in several cases already dealing with high school age students.

    Posted by WVW in West Newton August 27, 09 05:00 PM
  1. "1.The fact we are even willing to ruin the lives of teenagers over something as stupid as sexting by putting them on a public registry is ludicrous. What's wrong with thise country? "

    This is what happens when people vote for laws that feel good but do not protect anyone and actually cause more harm.

    Only once enough kids gets listed as sex predators because they acted stupidly with a phone will people realize that the sex offender laws in this country are a worthless and expensive waste of time, money and people's lives.

    The laws won't change, because everyone wants sex offenders put to death. Even those that were 18 and had a 16 year old girlfriend, or got caught streaking through a concert. It;s re-election time, so the politicians are not going to want to look soft on crime. This will get worse before it gets better. the only time it will start to get better is when some legislators kid gets listed as a sex predator for being stupid with their phone.

    Posted by It;s too late, the sex preadator laws already exist. August 27, 09 05:49 PM
  1. When we were little, we showed each other our privates. When we got a little bigger, we played games like 2 minutes in the closet or variations. We groped and fondled and peeked and ogled every chance we got. The fact that kids nowadays have access to a technology that we didn't shouldn't make them criminals for doing things which are essentially the same as we did. If we were caught doing those things, we were spanked or grounded or sent to live with relatives. We weren't arrested and put on sex offender registers.

    What really bothers people is the technology that seems to have made their children uncontrollable. If you don't like what your kid does with a cell phone, don't give him one. We managed, so will they.

    Posted by KAS August 27, 09 06:38 PM
  1. Over-parent much???

    Banning something doesn't make it go away. In fact, it makes it cooler...or have none of you been paying attention to the way teens drink and do pot and have sex and and and. I knew smoking pot was illegal and that I wasn't old enough to drink, but I did it anyways...and I wasn't alone in the room. In fact, the group I was doing it with were my fellow AP classmates.

    If you're worried about it and want to over parent your kid...why not TAKE THEIR PHONE AWAY? Cell phone's aren't a basic right.

    Posted by C August 27, 09 06:54 PM
  1. Kids are human and have sexual interests, depending on their age. Expecting them not to communicate those interests socially over whatever medium available is absurd and is wishful thinking. As is banning sexting.

    Of course, you can establish family rules or guidelines for their behavior. And you need to make clear that a digital picture can be forever. But for the school banning sexting--to me that crosses a line.

    And the laws are going to have to adapt to the reality that a 15 year old sending pictures of him or herself to someone else is personal expression, not pornography and not child victimization.

    Posted by steve in ma August 27, 09 09:47 PM
  1. Hey, I was having sex when I was 15. Get over yourselves already. These aren't KIDS --- kids are under 13 .. these are YOUNG ADULTS and young adults will express their sexuality whenever they can.

    You parents who want to keep your kids children LONG AFTER they are children better do a much better job of teaching them morals and responsibility. Putting them in a virtual prison is not the answer. Preaching to them doesn't work - you just become a nag that's easier to turn off than the TV.

    If you want to empower responsibly in your progeny -- start treating them what they are -- people entering into sexual maturity, humans that can reproduce, citizens who will soon inherit the ability to vote. Start teaching them what the world is really like instead of the fantasy land you apparently inhabit. Instead of treating a 15 year old like a 9 year old, the only one's getting fooled is you - they know the cards are stacked against them, with you doing the dealing. So they're going to do anything they can to express themselves.

    Posted by Just being real, and you are just frightened August 27, 09 11:29 PM
  1. You're living in fantasyland, Sparky. C'mon ... who among us, even decades down the road, can't remember who got pregnant in high school, who were the fathers, who had risky sex in stupid places, who went skinnydipping down at the pond in the summers and who had to get married in a tearing hurry fifteen minutes after graduation ... and no one put them - OR US - on sex offender lists for the rest of our lives because of it.

    Like every other generation, we were sexual when we were teens, and like every other generation, we're all pompously self-righteous now and complain that "no one has common sense or decency any more."

    Posted by Crystal Phoenix August 27, 09 11:47 PM
  1. First; the concept of charging someone with a crime for taking a picture of themselves is ludicrous.

    Second; sit down, brace yourself, teenagers engage in sexual activity. Shocking no? I'm sure there is a small percentage that wait until marriage, but the vast majority do not, have not, will not; go back as far in human history as you like; its just the way were wired.

    I was raised when only the very wealthy had mobile phones; I remember the first cell phones looked like GI Joe walkie talkies, and again only the very wealthy could afford them. I went all through school, and then most of my adult life without a cell phone; and guess what, so will my kids (well through school anyway).

    My kids do not need a cell phone in order to function; they do need a laptop though, and guess what, it has a webcam built in; even if it didn't $20 at any walmart and they could get one that plugs in through a usb port. There is no "stopping it".

    So in the end, whatever measures you decide to take, keep in mind, teens are not "children" in the same respect that pre-teens are children. Teens are learning what it means to be adult, like it or hate it, from 13+(thats early but noteworthy) kids are likely going to have many of the same earthly wants, needs, and desires that you the parent have; they aren't broken, they are just human. If the values you tried to place in them didn't stick by the time they hit puberty, passing laws is not going to force them anywhere except to jail. Work to keep adolescents safe through education, don't work to keep them immature.

    Posted by Rob August 28, 09 01:23 AM
  1. Human beings are sexual beings. Watch any newborn baby boy and see what he grabs first!

    As for exposing you "private" parts to others. That is a learned behavior. Parents TEACH their children what is "private" and what isn't "normal" (ie, don't let anybody else touch your pee-pee). As children grow and physically mature, their bodies start to change and their brains now realize that their parent's simple rule for "don't let anyone touch your privates" needs to be modified. You can try to keep them children by having "simple" rules, but at this stage of development, you need more than just a rule.

    Posted by John August 28, 09 07:47 AM
  1. What planet are you living on that you are ready to teach your child a horrible lesson about privacy and unwarranted searches that you would impound your child's phone and search it? The only lesson you are teaching your little one is to be a sheep and to conform and submit to authority. If you are an effective parent, there is no need to be so intrusive and invasive.

    Thanks for commenting, Greg. Frankly, I think young kids -- 12, 13, 14 year old, at the very least, should submit to their parents' authority. I think privacy is important, but I'm willing to invade my kids' privacy if I think they are in danger -- and, for me, them sending and receiving sexually explicit text messages is dangerous. I'm not talking about 18-year-olds here. I'm talking about kids who are barely in high school. -- LMA

    Posted by Greg August 28, 09 07:54 AM
  1. my take,,,, I pay the bill, you have no privacy rights period. I will check your phone, I will see when you txt, when you call. I have the ability to mirror your txt's to my phone if I wish. As for facebook and AIM and Yahoo messaging, A keylogger program IS installed. Everything IS in place, now,,,,, Im not saying I use these tools,,, I do tell them, give me a reason to use them,, please,,,,,,,, They know at any time, at any moment, I may be watching. It does keep them out of trouble and things clean. They all have facebook accounts,, I have the passwords also. They know I can check on them.
    The HUGE problem is to many parents look at their 11 and 12 yr old as tiny adults with all kinds of rights and privileges and privacy. They are NOT adults!! they are 10 -15, 16 yr old children and teens. You are the parent, YOU are raising them. They are not your bud's, not your BFF's, they are your children. Look back at your own childhood. I bet 90% of the good parents out there were raised by a village (neighbor hood parents had as much control in speaking to you as your own parents, and you LISTENED!). To fear you may violate your child's privacy and upset them indicates you have failed as a parent as far as setting rules.

    Posted by quantemlp August 28, 09 09:10 AM
  1. A young adult is not 13, sorry. That's ridiculous. I'm all for slowwly giving them more freedom and expression, but I will not let them think they are the boss - I am, and I make that very clear.

    Do you have boys? My god, 13 year old boys are the stupidest things on this planet. (I have one).

    Posted by ME August 28, 09 09:18 AM
  1. Please don't call it "sexting." If our culture did not impose such shame about natural human bodies, nude photos would be no big deal. A teen's life is "ruined" because photos of that teen nude are shared? Gimme a break. It wasn't the photos that killed Jessica Logan, it was her shame. Laws aginst "sexting" only exacerbate that shame. Isn't it time that parents let kids be proud of themselves and stop shaming them?

    Posted by Rich Pasco August 28, 09 11:02 AM
  1. For those of you who think this is new paranoia to charge people with a crime for sending around photos of themselves, think about what it would have taken to share a "semi-nude photo of oneself" with anyone if you were 14, say, 15 years ago. You would have needed to buy film, take photos, then (assuming you were not so talented as to have gotten into the photography class at high school with unrestricted access to the darkroom) taken it to a photo shop or drugstore for development. At which point the development tech would have been obliged to call the police about the naked photos of children, before you had the opportunity to show anyone. New technology brings new problems -- much as parents in the middle ages didn't have to buy gun cabinets. Now, teens have a lot more stupid decisions they can make a lot faster without interaction with photo labs, for example. Becoming a sex offender as a result is stupid, but there has to be something in between making this legal -- which potentially allows teens free rein to harrass their classmates by sending them photos of genitalia -- and putting kids on the sex offender registry.

    Posted by KS August 28, 09 11:08 AM
  1. "And the laws are going to have to adapt to the reality that a 15 year old sending pictures of him or herself to someone else is personal expression, not pornography and not child victimization."

    Are you kidding me? Hey, if you want to take pictures of yourself, go to town, but sending them to people that don't want them, or are receiving them unknowingly? That's acceptable? I think not - keep your "personal expression" to yourself, thank you.

    Posted by ME August 28, 09 11:38 AM
  1. To all of the self important commenters decrying the sexting ban in schools - why? Porn is banned in schools and sexting is just another extension of pornographic material.

    The difference between what we did as kids without cell phones versus sexting is simple: Once the picture is posted, it's for life. And if the pictures end up on the internet, it becomes free fodder for persons of a pedophiliac bend. So, does it remain harmless because 12 year old Janey wanted to show her naughty bits to a 13 year old boy who, in turn, wanted to show all of his friends and posted it for billions of users to see?

    I think that answer depends on whether or not you're little Janeys parent...and I guarantee you that, at 12, 13, 14, 15...most of these kids don't think beyond the first step or understand what can happen when they unleash that genie.

    Frankly, any parent who doesn't educate their child about the ramifications of engaging in the electronic distribution of self-nude portraits is failing their kid. The ramification is simple: You'll be labeled as a sex offender and that label will carry with you through life.

    To legalize it to exclude children from this potential label is to open a whole sluagh of loopholes that may be used for true sex offenders to continue to slip through the cracks. So sorry, but it's up to us, as parents, to clearly explain to our kids what can happen if they do it and are caught.

    This isn't a reaction to the discomfort caused by teenage sexuality. Hopefully no parent is so blind as to believe that games of "doctor" aren't going to be played in some form or other. What this is is a reaction to the idea that your child's nude self portrait may end up in the hands of actual pedophiles or child predators.

    Posted by phe August 28, 09 11:43 AM
  1. As an unrepentant helicopter parent (offspring is 32 now), I would advise other parents that this is a very important talk that should be taking place as soon as their children go "online". Everyday warn your children that not everything is as it seems. Not everyone is honest. Not everything on the web is true. Everything that get posted or texted stays in cyberspace. Even if you delete it, it does not really go away. There are ways that it can be resurrected. I don't mean that you should preach, that is the surest way to see ears flap shut, but when conversations get near these topics (even if it has to be stretched) drop in a little advise. You have set up rules, but interpretation of those rules should be a constant discussion between you and your children.
    It should be a no brainer that phones should be off during school hours, except for break times and lunch if phones are allowed under school rules.
    Laws that criminalize sexual activity broadly need to be amended. I would not repeal these laws though. Some teens ARE mean nasty predators. They should not be free to sexually exploit others.

    Posted by Mary Jacobs August 28, 09 12:05 PM
  1. Scott - I couldn't agree with you more! Unfortunately parents today want to be their friend, and not their parent. I see it all too often in my family members who now have kids of their own. Whatever happened to the days of discipline and teaching kids to work for what they want? It's unfortunate.

    Posted by Cynical2447 August 28, 09 12:22 PM
  1. Banning sexting is like banning promiscuous sex, or banning stupidty for that matter. Parents needs to step up and be parents and work with the schools to educate their kids of such actions. If your child does something "stupid" because "everyone else is doing it", then he/she will have to live with the consequences.

    Posted by lola2121 August 28, 09 12:30 PM
  1. Personally, I think it's ridiculous that kids are allowed to bring their cell phones into school ...let alone class.Kids are in school to LEARN not SOCIALIZE.
    Also, if these kids are going to have their cell phones in school well then maybe it's time to have the parents of these kids be parents and use parental controlls for the cell phone ,the way they have with cable..

    Posted by back to basics August 28, 09 12:56 PM
  1. No need to falsely classify children as sex offenders. These are adolescents, they can't always control themselves. That task falls to the parents.

    "Sexting" shouldn't be criminalized but should be banned in school, and when school personnel become aware of it, they should have to notify the family. You don't punish this with jail, you punish this with your car, when you drive it over the kid's phone.

    Posted by John August 28, 09 01:09 PM
  1. Interesting article. I perfectly agree sexting must be banned in schools!

    Posted by George August 28, 09 01:11 PM
  1. Question -
    how do authorities know the pics sent on a phone/web are "to" or "from" teens? They don't...(Many teens phones are still in their parents name.)
    This is why all sexting should be banned.
    A parent would obviously not want an adult taking these pics of their teen.
    Parents need to explain to their children, tweens or teens, this is not acceptable and has ramifications that can last the rest of your life.

    It is very simple....we have these laws in place for protection.
    It has nothing to do with teens having sex

    Posted by 42Giants August 28, 09 01:17 PM
  1. Enough of this mincing about trying to cure the symptoms instead of treating the disease. Whats the solution? schools should ban puberty!!

    Posted by max prum August 28, 09 01:35 PM
  1. "Don't drink and drive. Don't do drugs. Don't have unprotected sex. (In fact, don't have sex at all, if possible, OK? Thanks)."
    Stupidity incarnate. What is it about reproduction that makes people forget what being a kid was like? I'm almost 30 and I still remember it vividly: anything my parents forbade me from I was instantly attracted to. Sexuality is a part of human existence, and attempting to suppress your child's sexuality (which by the way, is pretty intense during puberty) is a fool's errand that only pushes them farther towards secrecy and depravity. ...

    Sexting is bad, yes it needs to be addressed with your children, but by telling them any expression of sexual maturity on their part is bad will only undermine your credibility with them. ...

    I appreciate your taking the time to comment, Scott... those "Don't"s I mention were example of typical -- maybe even stereotypical -- conversations that parents are often expected to have with their kids. Sorry that wasn't clear to you. -- LMA

    (FYI: This comment has been moderated, and edited to remove the more personal insults. Sections that were omitted are indicated by "...")

    Posted by Scott August 28, 09 02:08 PM
  1. Does anyone else find it ironic that this blog starts with:
    "It seems obvious to us as parents: Like emails and anything you post to Facebook, text messages can go public in an instant. But while we're thinking of private information like social security numbers and credit card codes, some teenagers (and even tweens) are sending, receiving, and forwarding something far more personal: nude and semi-nude pictures of themselves."

    And yet in the VERY SAME SECTION, "Boston.com Moms", readers are encouraged to send in photos of their children for god knows who on the internet to see? Perhaps children have taken their cues on vanity from mom and dad, who feel the need to post a ridiculous amount of photos of their offspring to websites and social networks to be shared and gawked at?
    Granted, what mom and dad put on their facebook accounts and the "moms" section of Boston.com are probably not sexualized in the same way (though I've seen a number of people on facebook post photos of their naked infants and toddlers), but vanity is vanity. If you don't want your kids posting pictures of themselves online, maybe YOU should stop doing it.

    That's a valid point, Scott, thanks for commenting. Presumably, the adults who are posting pictures of their kids here (and on other sites) understand that they can be viewed and even copied by anyone. My point in the opening paragraph is that while most adults do (or should) understand that, most kids don't, and send explicit photos of themselves to people in a way that they think is private, but really can be quite public. -- LMA

    Posted by Scott August 28, 09 02:18 PM
  1. This is ridiculous. Adolescents are adolescents. In the 50' and 60's is was making out and getting lucky at the drive in.

    In the 70's it was free love.

    The more things change the more they stay the same. Kids today are no more or less curious than they were 40 years ago, only now they're starting younger.

    Here is an idea, take away your kids cell phone. Problem solved.

    Charging kids with felonies or punishing them in school because they're just being kids is WRONG. They're just being curious. They're at the age when they're discovering their own sexuality and they don't know how to deal with it like adults, BECAUSE THEY'RE KIDS!!
    What's with parents nowadays? We read a story about a kid crashing his bike and suddenly everyone is calling for kids to wear helmets. Another kid ski's into a tree and now we're calling for kids to wear helmets on the ski slope. A kid gets drunk and tragically dies and suddenly cops are busting up teenage parties and schools are cancelling sports and the senior prom.

    Why don't we wrap them all in bubble wrap when they leave the house and make them wear helmets with camera's attached so we can watch them for every second they are out of out site? How far does this go? Where does it end?

    You can't stop kids from being kids. Period. The best you can do it talk to them, educate them. BE PARENTS.

    Posted by mike August 28, 09 02:22 PM
  1. We're living on a planet where just recently a 29-year old woman walked into a police station and identified herself as someone who was kidnapped at 11 on her way to school AND her step-father watched helplessly as it happened. She was forced to live outside under tents and bear two-children by her captor. We're in a world that a former pro athlete, Mr. Villa, just copped a guilty plea to raping a 15-year old student, We're in a world where the word "pedophile" wasn't invented for the fun or the sake of inventing words because we were bored one day.

    That is the world WE live in Greg and as a parent is our DUTY to protect our children and prepare them for people like the above fore-mentioned. It is our job not to just let them run rampant as soon as they can walk and that there are CONSEQUENCES to their actions. Unless your children were blessed with the ability to rationally think every single movement they make, the possible outcomes and how they would handle all of them, then you've got a Chosen One. Last time I met a bunch of teenagers, 30-years old was not only an "old man" but forever far away and they all thought they could stop bullets.

    As long as YOU are paying the bill for the phone and paid for the phone, you are not searching THEIR phone unwarranted, you are searching YOUR phone. You paid for it, you pay the bill and it is by YOUR permission as the ADULT and the parent that you grant your child the RIGHT to use it. Even if the child bought the phone and is paying the bill, as long as they are living under your roof, it is your job as a parent to make sure your child is not bringing anything illegal into your residence! It also protects YOU from any possibility of being implicated. Your under age child is YOUR responsibility morally and legally. If the parent of the "victim" decides to sue, they aren't chasing your child...they are coming after YOU, Greg.

    Your under-13 child have a phone Greg? Over 13 it is no longer a "child". You can try and be as effective a parent as you want, but if your kid thinks they can get away with something, your non-intrusiveness and non-invasive parenting will give them opportunity and young adults and teens thinking they are immortal mixed with peer pressure...you're going to wake up shocked one day.

    (FYI: This comment has been edited for length, so that it could be published.) -- LMA


    Posted by Allforadeuce August 28, 09 02:45 PM
  1. Shouldn't TEXTING be banned in schools??? What is your CHILD doing with a cell phone in school? They are there to LEARN.

    Posted by wcooper3 August 28, 09 02:47 PM
  1. Instead of banning sexting, why not just ban cell phones in the class room? There's no reason a student needs a cell phone during class. Keep it in your locker.

    Of course, then students will just use websites like textsendr.com to send text messages during class - but at least that can be easily monitored

    Posted by Ryan August 28, 09 03:23 PM
  1. Neither texting or sexting is permitted in any school that I am aware of!! In the school in which I teach, only children whose parents insist they have their cell phone with them can bring them to school, but they must stay in their locker and they must be turned off. Monitoring the halls and paying attention stops them from coming out. I mean seriously. If cell phones were "allowed" can you imagine the cheating nightmare?

    Posted by teach4fun August 28, 09 07:17 PM
  1. As a middle school teacher, I can tell you that sexting happens among 11, 12, and 13 year olds which is so disturbing it makes me sick. As for having cell phones in school, I can possibly accept the idea that a child could use a cell phone after school ONLY to let a parent know he was staying after or getting a ride with a friend, but as far as I'm concerned, a cell phone should be turned off as soon as a child enters school and not brought out again until school is over. As a previous person posted, parents can call the school in case of an emergency and students have access to office phones if they need to contact home. I have a cell phone and it gets turned off as soon as I get to school. My daughter's daycare provider has the school's number in case she needs to call. I'm unclear as to why the sexting issue is the school's problem anyway. From what I've heard, kids are taking these pictures at HOME or at a friend's house and sending them so why are we responsible? Dump more on the teachers and administration and then continue to bash the way we are raising your children.

    Posted by halcuri August 28, 09 08:38 PM
  1. you never, ever, ever know where the pics will end up. kids, don't trust anyone. if your that pressured send a pic of some ( model etc) person online. DO NOT succumb to this. really, it could come back to haunt you when you least expect it. in a future relationship, lies can circulate with the picture and its hard to tell your side when there is a naked pic of you. Just DON'T do it.


    Posted by f.F.C. August 28, 09 11:01 PM
  1. We have a sexting ban in my house, two in fact. They're called MOM and DAD.

    Posted by Jane X Jones August 29, 09 09:34 AM
  1. Here's a thought: teach your kids how to be responsible. When I was in high school I had to pay for my own cell phone, car, car insurance, etc. like a diminishing amount of kids these days. Oh, and that was only 5 years ago so it wasn't "back in the day." Parents need to start teaching their kids responsibility. Make them get a job, pay for their own cell phone and then at that point, assuming they buy their own phone and pay the bill themselves, you can assume that they are responsible enough to handle these type of situations. Stop babying your kids and let them learn what responsibility means.

    Posted by Tom August 29, 09 03:08 PM
  1. It's very simple. NO One should ever pass along a comprimising picture of someone else, period!!!! Not only should this be banned, but I see this as an invasion of privacy and it should be a criminal offense.

    Posted by RedBaron August 29, 09 03:10 PM
  1. Some commenters seem to be oddly abdicating responsibility. Sex is normal, teens are sexual, etc., etc. Yes, that's all true. But how does that mean we as parents and schools should let teens do whatever they want without trying to guide them and teach them?

    Sexting is a problem because the electronic images go out into the world and cannot be reclaimed by the young teen who took them -- exposing her/him to embarrassment (not the end of the world) but also possibly serious harrassment. There is no way to control where such images end up, or in whose hands. This is how sexting is different from spin the bottle/groping behind the football stands/teen sex in general. And teenagers are growing up in many ways -- but they are not actually grown up. We don't let them drink, go to war, vote.... and largely because we think they do not yet have the mental maturity to make such serious decisions. Is that seriously news? So yes, treat kids with respect. Yes, understand they may well be sexually active and it is not the end of the world. But also, put rules in place to try to minimize the damage from bad choices -- either because it becomes harder to do stupid things, or because simply our emphasis on our values sinks in; and as always, talk, talk, talk. Schools should be part of that talk because schools have our kids for long periods of time.

    Posted by jlen August 29, 09 03:15 PM
  1. A--Children (human beings under the age of 16) are in school to LEARN. What purpose do cell phones serve in this agenda?
    B--Parents should tell their children at the age of 8 or so that sexting is exactly like standing on the front doorstep in the nude. If they don't like the idea then they should not be using cellphones webcams etc.
    C--Parents should tell their children about the dangers of being hacked in general--their bank cards, their email, etc. Then they have a fighting chance when the child molester sends them an email to start taking off their clothes in the privacy of their bedroom. Remember this case from a few years ago?
    D--parents have the absolute duty to stop being so stupid as to think that schools can teach morality. If parents are not prepared to teach healthy values at all ages, then they should give up the custody of their children.

    Posted by Irene August 29, 09 10:00 PM
  1. Just a couple of years ago, the screaming headlines said, "1 in five teenagers has been approached online by a sexual predator!" Today, the screaming headlines are saying, "1 in five teenagers are taking dirty online pictures of themselves!" I can't help but think the former has progressed into the latter, and much it is hysteria designed to make you afraid of that awful Internet and the things it is doing to your innocent children.

    Posted by Modemac August 30, 09 09:37 AM
  1. Is it not already banned? What a country.

    Posted by Doug August 30, 09 06:02 PM
  1. Ban everything! Ban everything now! We should only be allowed to sit on our front steps and watch the clouds go by. As we are sitting there, the ill bred, the improperly parented and the most adventurous of adolesents wil be off in their rooms with their boy/girl friends making fetuses to abort.

    Posted by RugBurn August 30, 09 09:50 PM
  1. Banning sexting in the school will do nothing, I guarantee it. I'm 15 (What am I doing on a parenting website? It's 3 am and I'm bored), so obviously I go to high school and have some familiarity on the issue. Sexting can sometimes be considered illegal in the first place (students caught with sexts on their phones have been given child pornography charges in the past) and banning it is like banning alcohol in schools, it's like "well, DUH". And most sexting, along with most drug and alcohol use and most actual sex goes on off of school property and outside of school hours. The school can, say, expel any student found with sexts on their phone, but that's really the farthest schools can reach. The thing my friends and I find appalling is that anyone would want to a) send a dirty pic to a partner or b) date someone who would want to send you a degrading picture of themselves like that. A girl at my old school figured out the hard way that if you send your boyfriend/girlfriend a sext, and you end up having a nasty breakup, you're pretty much screwed.

    Posted by caro lives and lets live July 14, 10 03:07 AM
 
56 comments so far...
  1. The fact we are even willing to ruin the lives of teenagers over something as stupid as sexting by putting them on a public registry is ludicrous. What's wrong with thise country?

    Posted by The One August 27, 09 10:49 AM
  1. It's one thing to ban it. It's entirely something else to stop it...which you can't. The genie is out of the bottle folks. Until it becomes completely "not cool" among kids, it's not going to stop. And it's not like this is a rampant thing anyway. 21% for girls and 18% for boys....statistically speaking, it is in fact safe to say, "Oh, my child would NEVER do that!"

    Posted by sebekemsaf August 27, 09 12:28 PM
  1. My wife and I actually refused the package with Texting, and told our 14 yr daughter old that if a text message shows up on the bill she will lose the phone. Unfortunately Facebook and Aiim are a problem for us. One problem at a time I guess. We are so mean, we won't let her go to Six Flags with an online friend and his father...Right

    Posted by allriledup August 27, 09 12:42 PM
  1. It should be obvious, but unfortunately many teens keep making the same mistake. A major problem in this is that, like with Jessica Logan, teens send these pictures to their boyfriends, thinking they're in love and that the pictures will stay between the two of them. Considering how brief high school relationships can be, it's not surprising the pictures get out.

    Good advice on keeping tabs on phone records, though. It doesn't take that much effort, and it could tip parents off about potentially dangerous behavior.

    http://childrenshospitalblog.org/

    Posted by Annie August 27, 09 01:53 PM
  1. This is enough to make a saint swear. My mother never had these issues to deal with. How is it these kids think this sexting nonsense is a great idea? Does no one have common sense and decency any more?

    Posted by sparky August 27, 09 01:56 PM
  1. 1 in 5 kids sexting is not considered rampant?? egads.

    Posted by doesitmatter August 27, 09 02:19 PM
  1. Look into kajeet! kajeet a cell phone service just for kids. They offer parents amazing parental controls including the ability to restrict times that kids can send/receive call and text messages. 2 of my children have kajeet phones and we have them set up so that calls and texts cannot be made during school hours or after 9pm. (Of course, we white listed 911 and mom and dad's cell numbers. They'll go through any time day or night for emergency purposes)

    On our younger son's phone we have the restrictions set even higher. Currently only mom, dad, grandma and a few select others can call/text his cell phone at any time. There's no reason for anyone else to be contacting him. As he grows and matures we'll give him a little more access.

    We're currently looking at adding our 3rd boy onto a kajeet plan.

    Posted by Kristen August 27, 09 02:37 PM
  1. I'd like to ban bad weather on my vacation, the days getting shorter in the winter, people being rude and traffic congestion. I'd also like everyone in the world to get along in perfect harmony. It also would be fantastic if there was really a Santa Claus, Easter Bunny and a tooth fairy.

    Sadly, none of these things are going to happen. Kids will keep making stupid decisions, too. When I was a teen, though, you actually had to be present when someone did something stupid. Education and mentoring of your kids is likely the only possible thing. And appropriate punishment. I hope to God the sex offender thing doesn't stick, that can make a stupid decision have an effect on all sorts of things later on for the kid doing one stupid act.

    Posted by K August 27, 09 02:52 PM
  1. It bothers you to look at your kids phone? Get over it - my kids know that any time, any place, I will look at it, take it temporarily, or permanently. You need to let them know you are watching...

    Posted by ME August 27, 09 03:00 PM
  1. This whole thing is totally ridiculous... you can't ban "sexting" anymore than you can ban teen sexuality as a whole. As much as today's parents don't want to hear it, their children are not genetically programmed to remain kids until they are 21 - which seems to be the limit of childhood these days though that limit is ever expanding. Teens are going to express sexual curiosity, there is no simply no way around it. "Sexting" is just today's manifestation of this curiosity.

    Stop it with these ridiculous bans and own up to your parental responsibilities to talk about sex with your children. "The talk" just needs to expand to include the dangers of sexting along with real sex. Parents - get educated and get talking and stop putting the responsibility on the public school system to control your children.

    Posted by Scott August 27, 09 03:08 PM
  1. To The One...... you're a moron! If it's the only way to get kids to listen because parents aren't being parents, then so be it. When I was a teen, there were no cell phones. Parents had an emergency, they called the school and you got called to the office. We all survived just fine, and by the way, both of my parents worked. People lived and functioned just fine without having to take that call or send that text message (all the while risking not only your life but every life that happens to be within accident distance of you on the roadway). No one is above it all. And your teen, least of all. It's up to parents to do their job, which is parent. If your kid does get a cell phone, there have to be rules, and a violation of those rules means the cell phone goes away indefinitely. Texting, nice option but not necessary. Therefore, until your kids figure out that it's dangerous, as parents, you get to monitor the phone bill every month and keep an eye on what your kid is doing, both online and off. If parents actually parented, the schools wouldn't have to.

    Posted by kitefler252 August 27, 09 03:09 PM
  1. ME I agree - granted, my oldest kids are only 11 but the expectation is to expect no privacy. Right now their use of technology is limited - my son has only internet access in the family room and other than that, no cell phone, facebook, etc. while my step-daughter does have a cell phone and a myspace page(!) and they know that I can and do check up on their web surfing, her cell phone calls and texts, etc. I expect that things will change a lot in the next couple of years but parental controls and monitoring software are there for a reason and I'll have no qualms about using them until I can be sure that my kids are capable of using good judgment with personal tech (or move out).

    Posted by Jen August 27, 09 04:31 PM
  1. I think it should be a no brainer to make it legal frankly. It's rediculous we have to criminalize every bit of bad behavior in the world. Just because some a girl killed herself doesn't make every teenage boy that manages to see a breast a sex offender. If you are so worried your kid will be doing this here's a hint - don't buy them a stinking cell phone.

    Posted by Andre August 27, 09 04:34 PM
  1. Yes it's very stupid, because everyone is going to end up seeing the pictures. Then the sender will be embarassed. But that's their fault.

    But guess what. Sex wasn't invented yesterday, even for kiddies. You just heard about it a lot less because there was no instant communication, fewer people, and the kids were out in the middle of the woods with nobody around.

    Perhaps this way is better: At least the recipient can take care of business without direct contact.

    Vermont is right. You do not want kids to get labeled sex offenders for doing what they always have and always will do. Disgusting that the author would criticize Vermont for this. But of course if the author has children, and they get labeled sex-offenders for sexting, I'm sure the author would be writing articles about how that is unfair.

    This country's disgusting, unabashed, and self-righteous hypocrisy is getting to me.

    Posted by D August 27, 09 04:49 PM
  1. hmmm - correct me if I am wrong, but "sexting" IS already banned. It falls under the child pornography laws and is illegal. One conviction and your kid ends up a registered sex offender for the rest of his/her life. Ignorance is no defense, charges have been mulled over in several cases already dealing with high school age students.

    Posted by WVW in West Newton August 27, 09 05:00 PM
  1. "1.The fact we are even willing to ruin the lives of teenagers over something as stupid as sexting by putting them on a public registry is ludicrous. What's wrong with thise country? "

    This is what happens when people vote for laws that feel good but do not protect anyone and actually cause more harm.

    Only once enough kids gets listed as sex predators because they acted stupidly with a phone will people realize that the sex offender laws in this country are a worthless and expensive waste of time, money and people's lives.

    The laws won't change, because everyone wants sex offenders put to death. Even those that were 18 and had a 16 year old girlfriend, or got caught streaking through a concert. It;s re-election time, so the politicians are not going to want to look soft on crime. This will get worse before it gets better. the only time it will start to get better is when some legislators kid gets listed as a sex predator for being stupid with their phone.

    Posted by It;s too late, the sex preadator laws already exist. August 27, 09 05:49 PM
  1. When we were little, we showed each other our privates. When we got a little bigger, we played games like 2 minutes in the closet or variations. We groped and fondled and peeked and ogled every chance we got. The fact that kids nowadays have access to a technology that we didn't shouldn't make them criminals for doing things which are essentially the same as we did. If we were caught doing those things, we were spanked or grounded or sent to live with relatives. We weren't arrested and put on sex offender registers.

    What really bothers people is the technology that seems to have made their children uncontrollable. If you don't like what your kid does with a cell phone, don't give him one. We managed, so will they.

    Posted by KAS August 27, 09 06:38 PM
  1. Over-parent much???

    Banning something doesn't make it go away. In fact, it makes it cooler...or have none of you been paying attention to the way teens drink and do pot and have sex and and and. I knew smoking pot was illegal and that I wasn't old enough to drink, but I did it anyways...and I wasn't alone in the room. In fact, the group I was doing it with were my fellow AP classmates.

    If you're worried about it and want to over parent your kid...why not TAKE THEIR PHONE AWAY? Cell phone's aren't a basic right.

    Posted by C August 27, 09 06:54 PM
  1. Kids are human and have sexual interests, depending on their age. Expecting them not to communicate those interests socially over whatever medium available is absurd and is wishful thinking. As is banning sexting.

    Of course, you can establish family rules or guidelines for their behavior. And you need to make clear that a digital picture can be forever. But for the school banning sexting--to me that crosses a line.

    And the laws are going to have to adapt to the reality that a 15 year old sending pictures of him or herself to someone else is personal expression, not pornography and not child victimization.

    Posted by steve in ma August 27, 09 09:47 PM
  1. Hey, I was having sex when I was 15. Get over yourselves already. These aren't KIDS --- kids are under 13 .. these are YOUNG ADULTS and young adults will express their sexuality whenever they can.

    You parents who want to keep your kids children LONG AFTER they are children better do a much better job of teaching them morals and responsibility. Putting them in a virtual prison is not the answer. Preaching to them doesn't work - you just become a nag that's easier to turn off than the TV.

    If you want to empower responsibly in your progeny -- start treating them what they are -- people entering into sexual maturity, humans that can reproduce, citizens who will soon inherit the ability to vote. Start teaching them what the world is really like instead of the fantasy land you apparently inhabit. Instead of treating a 15 year old like a 9 year old, the only one's getting fooled is you - they know the cards are stacked against them, with you doing the dealing. So they're going to do anything they can to express themselves.

    Posted by Just being real, and you are just frightened August 27, 09 11:29 PM
  1. You're living in fantasyland, Sparky. C'mon ... who among us, even decades down the road, can't remember who got pregnant in high school, who were the fathers, who had risky sex in stupid places, who went skinnydipping down at the pond in the summers and who had to get married in a tearing hurry fifteen minutes after graduation ... and no one put them - OR US - on sex offender lists for the rest of our lives because of it.

    Like every other generation, we were sexual when we were teens, and like every other generation, we're all pompously self-righteous now and complain that "no one has common sense or decency any more."

    Posted by Crystal Phoenix August 27, 09 11:47 PM
  1. First; the concept of charging someone with a crime for taking a picture of themselves is ludicrous.

    Second; sit down, brace yourself, teenagers engage in sexual activity. Shocking no? I'm sure there is a small percentage that wait until marriage, but the vast majority do not, have not, will not; go back as far in human history as you like; its just the way were wired.

    I was raised when only the very wealthy had mobile phones; I remember the first cell phones looked like GI Joe walkie talkies, and again only the very wealthy could afford them. I went all through school, and then most of my adult life without a cell phone; and guess what, so will my kids (well through school anyway).

    My kids do not need a cell phone in order to function; they do need a laptop though, and guess what, it has a webcam built in; even if it didn't $20 at any walmart and they could get one that plugs in through a usb port. There is no "stopping it".

    So in the end, whatever measures you decide to take, keep in mind, teens are not "children" in the same respect that pre-teens are children. Teens are learning what it means to be adult, like it or hate it, from 13+(thats early but noteworthy) kids are likely going to have many of the same earthly wants, needs, and desires that you the parent have; they aren't broken, they are just human. If the values you tried to place in them didn't stick by the time they hit puberty, passing laws is not going to force them anywhere except to jail. Work to keep adolescents safe through education, don't work to keep them immature.

    Posted by Rob August 28, 09 01:23 AM
  1. Human beings are sexual beings. Watch any newborn baby boy and see what he grabs first!

    As for exposing you "private" parts to others. That is a learned behavior. Parents TEACH their children what is "private" and what isn't "normal" (ie, don't let anybody else touch your pee-pee). As children grow and physically mature, their bodies start to change and their brains now realize that their parent's simple rule for "don't let anyone touch your privates" needs to be modified. You can try to keep them children by having "simple" rules, but at this stage of development, you need more than just a rule.

    Posted by John August 28, 09 07:47 AM
  1. What planet are you living on that you are ready to teach your child a horrible lesson about privacy and unwarranted searches that you would impound your child's phone and search it? The only lesson you are teaching your little one is to be a sheep and to conform and submit to authority. If you are an effective parent, there is no need to be so intrusive and invasive.

    Thanks for commenting, Greg. Frankly, I think young kids -- 12, 13, 14 year old, at the very least, should submit to their parents' authority. I think privacy is important, but I'm willing to invade my kids' privacy if I think they are in danger -- and, for me, them sending and receiving sexually explicit text messages is dangerous. I'm not talking about 18-year-olds here. I'm talking about kids who are barely in high school. -- LMA

    Posted by Greg August 28, 09 07:54 AM
  1. my take,,,, I pay the bill, you have no privacy rights period. I will check your phone, I will see when you txt, when you call. I have the ability to mirror your txt's to my phone if I wish. As for facebook and AIM and Yahoo messaging, A keylogger program IS installed. Everything IS in place, now,,,,, Im not saying I use these tools,,, I do tell them, give me a reason to use them,, please,,,,,,,, They know at any time, at any moment, I may be watching. It does keep them out of trouble and things clean. They all have facebook accounts,, I have the passwords also. They know I can check on them.
    The HUGE problem is to many parents look at their 11 and 12 yr old as tiny adults with all kinds of rights and privileges and privacy. They are NOT adults!! they are 10 -15, 16 yr old children and teens. You are the parent, YOU are raising them. They are not your bud's, not your BFF's, they are your children. Look back at your own childhood. I bet 90% of the good parents out there were raised by a village (neighbor hood parents had as much control in speaking to you as your own parents, and you LISTENED!). To fear you may violate your child's privacy and upset them indicates you have failed as a parent as far as setting rules.

    Posted by quantemlp August 28, 09 09:10 AM
  1. A young adult is not 13, sorry. That's ridiculous. I'm all for slowwly giving them more freedom and expression, but I will not let them think they are the boss - I am, and I make that very clear.

    Do you have boys? My god, 13 year old boys are the stupidest things on this planet. (I have one).

    Posted by ME August 28, 09 09:18 AM
  1. Please don't call it "sexting." If our culture did not impose such shame about natural human bodies, nude photos would be no big deal. A teen's life is "ruined" because photos of that teen nude are shared? Gimme a break. It wasn't the photos that killed Jessica Logan, it was her shame. Laws aginst "sexting" only exacerbate that shame. Isn't it time that parents let kids be proud of themselves and stop shaming them?

    Posted by Rich Pasco August 28, 09 11:02 AM
  1. For those of you who think this is new paranoia to charge people with a crime for sending around photos of themselves, think about what it would have taken to share a "semi-nude photo of oneself" with anyone if you were 14, say, 15 years ago. You would have needed to buy film, take photos, then (assuming you were not so talented as to have gotten into the photography class at high school with unrestricted access to the darkroom) taken it to a photo shop or drugstore for development. At which point the development tech would have been obliged to call the police about the naked photos of children, before you had the opportunity to show anyone. New technology brings new problems -- much as parents in the middle ages didn't have to buy gun cabinets. Now, teens have a lot more stupid decisions they can make a lot faster without interaction with photo labs, for example. Becoming a sex offender as a result is stupid, but there has to be something in between making this legal -- which potentially allows teens free rein to harrass their classmates by sending them photos of genitalia -- and putting kids on the sex offender registry.

    Posted by KS August 28, 09 11:08 AM
  1. "And the laws are going to have to adapt to the reality that a 15 year old sending pictures of him or herself to someone else is personal expression, not pornography and not child victimization."

    Are you kidding me? Hey, if you want to take pictures of yourself, go to town, but sending them to people that don't want them, or are receiving them unknowingly? That's acceptable? I think not - keep your "personal expression" to yourself, thank you.

    Posted by ME August 28, 09 11:38 AM
  1. To all of the self important commenters decrying the sexting ban in schools - why? Porn is banned in schools and sexting is just another extension of pornographic material.

    The difference between what we did as kids without cell phones versus sexting is simple: Once the picture is posted, it's for life. And if the pictures end up on the internet, it becomes free fodder for persons of a pedophiliac bend. So, does it remain harmless because 12 year old Janey wanted to show her naughty bits to a 13 year old boy who, in turn, wanted to show all of his friends and posted it for billions of users to see?

    I think that answer depends on whether or not you're little Janeys parent...and I guarantee you that, at 12, 13, 14, 15...most of these kids don't think beyond the first step or understand what can happen when they unleash that genie.

    Frankly, any parent who doesn't educate their child about the ramifications of engaging in the electronic distribution of self-nude portraits is failing their kid. The ramification is simple: You'll be labeled as a sex offender and that label will carry with you through life.

    To legalize it to exclude children from this potential label is to open a whole sluagh of loopholes that may be used for true sex offenders to continue to slip through the cracks. So sorry, but it's up to us, as parents, to clearly explain to our kids what can happen if they do it and are caught.

    This isn't a reaction to the discomfort caused by teenage sexuality. Hopefully no parent is so blind as to believe that games of "doctor" aren't going to be played in some form or other. What this is is a reaction to the idea that your child's nude self portrait may end up in the hands of actual pedophiles or child predators.

    Posted by phe August 28, 09 11:43 AM
  1. As an unrepentant helicopter parent (offspring is 32 now), I would advise other parents that this is a very important talk that should be taking place as soon as their children go "online". Everyday warn your children that not everything is as it seems. Not everyone is honest. Not everything on the web is true. Everything that get posted or texted stays in cyberspace. Even if you delete it, it does not really go away. There are ways that it can be resurrected. I don't mean that you should preach, that is the surest way to see ears flap shut, but when conversations get near these topics (even if it has to be stretched) drop in a little advise. You have set up rules, but interpretation of those rules should be a constant discussion between you and your children.
    It should be a no brainer that phones should be off during school hours, except for break times and lunch if phones are allowed under school rules.
    Laws that criminalize sexual activity broadly need to be amended. I would not repeal these laws though. Some teens ARE mean nasty predators. They should not be free to sexually exploit others.

    Posted by Mary Jacobs August 28, 09 12:05 PM
  1. Scott - I couldn't agree with you more! Unfortunately parents today want to be their friend, and not their parent. I see it all too often in my family members who now have kids of their own. Whatever happened to the days of discipline and teaching kids to work for what they want? It's unfortunate.

    Posted by Cynical2447 August 28, 09 12:22 PM
  1. Banning sexting is like banning promiscuous sex, or banning stupidty for that matter. Parents needs to step up and be parents and work with the schools to educate their kids of such actions. If your child does something "stupid" because "everyone else is doing it", then he/she will have to live with the consequences.

    Posted by lola2121 August 28, 09 12:30 PM
  1. Personally, I think it's ridiculous that kids are allowed to bring their cell phones into school ...let alone class.Kids are in school to LEARN not SOCIALIZE.
    Also, if these kids are going to have their cell phones in school well then maybe it's time to have the parents of these kids be parents and use parental controlls for the cell phone ,the way they have with cable..

    Posted by back to basics August 28, 09 12:56 PM
  1. No need to falsely classify children as sex offenders. These are adolescents, they can't always control themselves. That task falls to the parents.

    "Sexting" shouldn't be criminalized but should be banned in school, and when school personnel become aware of it, they should have to notify the family. You don't punish this with jail, you punish this with your car, when you drive it over the kid's phone.

    Posted by John August 28, 09 01:09 PM
  1. Interesting article. I perfectly agree sexting must be banned in schools!

    Posted by George August 28, 09 01:11 PM
  1. Question -
    how do authorities know the pics sent on a phone/web are "to" or "from" teens? They don't...(Many teens phones are still in their parents name.)
    This is why all sexting should be banned.
    A parent would obviously not want an adult taking these pics of their teen.
    Parents need to explain to their children, tweens or teens, this is not acceptable and has ramifications that can last the rest of your life.

    It is very simple....we have these laws in place for protection.
    It has nothing to do with teens having sex

    Posted by 42Giants August 28, 09 01:17 PM
  1. Enough of this mincing about trying to cure the symptoms instead of treating the disease. Whats the solution? schools should ban puberty!!

    Posted by max prum August 28, 09 01:35 PM
  1. "Don't drink and drive. Don't do drugs. Don't have unprotected sex. (In fact, don't have sex at all, if possible, OK? Thanks)."
    Stupidity incarnate. What is it about reproduction that makes people forget what being a kid was like? I'm almost 30 and I still remember it vividly: anything my parents forbade me from I was instantly attracted to. Sexuality is a part of human existence, and attempting to suppress your child's sexuality (which by the way, is pretty intense during puberty) is a fool's errand that only pushes them farther towards secrecy and depravity. ...

    Sexting is bad, yes it needs to be addressed with your children, but by telling them any expression of sexual maturity on their part is bad will only undermine your credibility with them. ...

    I appreciate your taking the time to comment, Scott... those "Don't"s I mention were example of typical -- maybe even stereotypical -- conversations that parents are often expected to have with their kids. Sorry that wasn't clear to you. -- LMA

    (FYI: This comment has been moderated, and edited to remove the more personal insults. Sections that were omitted are indicated by "...")

    Posted by Scott August 28, 09 02:08 PM
  1. Does anyone else find it ironic that this blog starts with:
    "It seems obvious to us as parents: Like emails and anything you post to Facebook, text messages can go public in an instant. But while we're thinking of private information like social security numbers and credit card codes, some teenagers (and even tweens) are sending, receiving, and forwarding something far more personal: nude and semi-nude pictures of themselves."

    And yet in the VERY SAME SECTION, "Boston.com Moms", readers are encouraged to send in photos of their children for god knows who on the internet to see? Perhaps children have taken their cues on vanity from mom and dad, who feel the need to post a ridiculous amount of photos of their offspring to websites and social networks to be shared and gawked at?
    Granted, what mom and dad put on their facebook accounts and the "moms" section of Boston.com are probably not sexualized in the same way (though I've seen a number of people on facebook post photos of their naked infants and toddlers), but vanity is vanity. If you don't want your kids posting pictures of themselves online, maybe YOU should stop doing it.

    That's a valid point, Scott, thanks for commenting. Presumably, the adults who are posting pictures of their kids here (and on other sites) understand that they can be viewed and even copied by anyone. My point in the opening paragraph is that while most adults do (or should) understand that, most kids don't, and send explicit photos of themselves to people in a way that they think is private, but really can be quite public. -- LMA

    Posted by Scott August 28, 09 02:18 PM
  1. This is ridiculous. Adolescents are adolescents. In the 50' and 60's is was making out and getting lucky at the drive in.

    In the 70's it was free love.

    The more things change the more they stay the same. Kids today are no more or less curious than they were 40 years ago, only now they're starting younger.

    Here is an idea, take away your kids cell phone. Problem solved.

    Charging kids with felonies or punishing them in school because they're just being kids is WRONG. They're just being curious. They're at the age when they're discovering their own sexuality and they don't know how to deal with it like adults, BECAUSE THEY'RE KIDS!!
    What's with parents nowadays? We read a story about a kid crashing his bike and suddenly everyone is calling for kids to wear helmets. Another kid ski's into a tree and now we're calling for kids to wear helmets on the ski slope. A kid gets drunk and tragically dies and suddenly cops are busting up teenage parties and schools are cancelling sports and the senior prom.

    Why don't we wrap them all in bubble wrap when they leave the house and make them wear helmets with camera's attached so we can watch them for every second they are out of out site? How far does this go? Where does it end?

    You can't stop kids from being kids. Period. The best you can do it talk to them, educate them. BE PARENTS.

    Posted by mike August 28, 09 02:22 PM
  1. We're living on a planet where just recently a 29-year old woman walked into a police station and identified herself as someone who was kidnapped at 11 on her way to school AND her step-father watched helplessly as it happened. She was forced to live outside under tents and bear two-children by her captor. We're in a world that a former pro athlete, Mr. Villa, just copped a guilty plea to raping a 15-year old student, We're in a world where the word "pedophile" wasn't invented for the fun or the sake of inventing words because we were bored one day.

    That is the world WE live in Greg and as a parent is our DUTY to protect our children and prepare them for people like the above fore-mentioned. It is our job not to just let them run rampant as soon as they can walk and that there are CONSEQUENCES to their actions. Unless your children were blessed with the ability to rationally think every single movement they make, the possible outcomes and how they would handle all of them, then you've got a Chosen One. Last time I met a bunch of teenagers, 30-years old was not only an "old man" but forever far away and they all thought they could stop bullets.

    As long as YOU are paying the bill for the phone and paid for the phone, you are not searching THEIR phone unwarranted, you are searching YOUR phone. You paid for it, you pay the bill and it is by YOUR permission as the ADULT and the parent that you grant your child the RIGHT to use it. Even if the child bought the phone and is paying the bill, as long as they are living under your roof, it is your job as a parent to make sure your child is not bringing anything illegal into your residence! It also protects YOU from any possibility of being implicated. Your under age child is YOUR responsibility morally and legally. If the parent of the "victim" decides to sue, they aren't chasing your child...they are coming after YOU, Greg.

    Your under-13 child have a phone Greg? Over 13 it is no longer a "child". You can try and be as effective a parent as you want, but if your kid thinks they can get away with something, your non-intrusiveness and non-invasive parenting will give them opportunity and young adults and teens thinking they are immortal mixed with peer pressure...you're going to wake up shocked one day.

    (FYI: This comment has been edited for length, so that it could be published.) -- LMA


    Posted by Allforadeuce August 28, 09 02:45 PM
  1. Shouldn't TEXTING be banned in schools??? What is your CHILD doing with a cell phone in school? They are there to LEARN.

    Posted by wcooper3 August 28, 09 02:47 PM
  1. Instead of banning sexting, why not just ban cell phones in the class room? There's no reason a student needs a cell phone during class. Keep it in your locker.

    Of course, then students will just use websites like textsendr.com to send text messages during class - but at least that can be easily monitored

    Posted by Ryan August 28, 09 03:23 PM
  1. Neither texting or sexting is permitted in any school that I am aware of!! In the school in which I teach, only children whose parents insist they have their cell phone with them can bring them to school, but they must stay in their locker and they must be turned off. Monitoring the halls and paying attention stops them from coming out. I mean seriously. If cell phones were "allowed" can you imagine the cheating nightmare?

    Posted by teach4fun August 28, 09 07:17 PM
  1. As a middle school teacher, I can tell you that sexting happens among 11, 12, and 13 year olds which is so disturbing it makes me sick. As for having cell phones in school, I can possibly accept the idea that a child could use a cell phone after school ONLY to let a parent know he was staying after or getting a ride with a friend, but as far as I'm concerned, a cell phone should be turned off as soon as a child enters school and not brought out again until school is over. As a previous person posted, parents can call the school in case of an emergency and students have access to office phones if they need to contact home. I have a cell phone and it gets turned off as soon as I get to school. My daughter's daycare provider has the school's number in case she needs to call. I'm unclear as to why the sexting issue is the school's problem anyway. From what I've heard, kids are taking these pictures at HOME or at a friend's house and sending them so why are we responsible? Dump more on the teachers and administration and then continue to bash the way we are raising your children.

    Posted by halcuri August 28, 09 08:38 PM
  1. you never, ever, ever know where the pics will end up. kids, don't trust anyone. if your that pressured send a pic of some ( model etc) person online. DO NOT succumb to this. really, it could come back to haunt you when you least expect it. in a future relationship, lies can circulate with the picture and its hard to tell your side when there is a naked pic of you. Just DON'T do it.


    Posted by f.F.C. August 28, 09 11:01 PM
  1. We have a sexting ban in my house, two in fact. They're called MOM and DAD.

    Posted by Jane X Jones August 29, 09 09:34 AM
  1. Here's a thought: teach your kids how to be responsible. When I was in high school I had to pay for my own cell phone, car, car insurance, etc. like a diminishing amount of kids these days. Oh, and that was only 5 years ago so it wasn't "back in the day." Parents need to start teaching their kids responsibility. Make them get a job, pay for their own cell phone and then at that point, assuming they buy their own phone and pay the bill themselves, you can assume that they are responsible enough to handle these type of situations. Stop babying your kids and let them learn what responsibility means.

    Posted by Tom August 29, 09 03:08 PM
  1. It's very simple. NO One should ever pass along a comprimising picture of someone else, period!!!! Not only should this be banned, but I see this as an invasion of privacy and it should be a criminal offense.

    Posted by RedBaron August 29, 09 03:10 PM
  1. Some commenters seem to be oddly abdicating responsibility. Sex is normal, teens are sexual, etc., etc. Yes, that's all true. But how does that mean we as parents and schools should let teens do whatever they want without trying to guide them and teach them?

    Sexting is a problem because the electronic images go out into the world and cannot be reclaimed by the young teen who took them -- exposing her/him to embarrassment (not the end of the world) but also possibly serious harrassment. There is no way to control where such images end up, or in whose hands. This is how sexting is different from spin the bottle/groping behind the football stands/teen sex in general. And teenagers are growing up in many ways -- but they are not actually grown up. We don't let them drink, go to war, vote.... and largely because we think they do not yet have the mental maturity to make such serious decisions. Is that seriously news? So yes, treat kids with respect. Yes, understand they may well be sexually active and it is not the end of the world. But also, put rules in place to try to minimize the damage from bad choices -- either because it becomes harder to do stupid things, or because simply our emphasis on our values sinks in; and as always, talk, talk, talk. Schools should be part of that talk because schools have our kids for long periods of time.

    Posted by jlen August 29, 09 03:15 PM
  1. A--Children (human beings under the age of 16) are in school to LEARN. What purpose do cell phones serve in this agenda?
    B--Parents should tell their children at the age of 8 or so that sexting is exactly like standing on the front doorstep in the nude. If they don't like the idea then they should not be using cellphones webcams etc.
    C--Parents should tell their children about the dangers of being hacked in general--their bank cards, their email, etc. Then they have a fighting chance when the child molester sends them an email to start taking off their clothes in the privacy of their bedroom. Remember this case from a few years ago?
    D--parents have the absolute duty to stop being so stupid as to think that schools can teach morality. If parents are not prepared to teach healthy values at all ages, then they should give up the custody of their children.

    Posted by Irene August 29, 09 10:00 PM
  1. Just a couple of years ago, the screaming headlines said, "1 in five teenagers has been approached online by a sexual predator!" Today, the screaming headlines are saying, "1 in five teenagers are taking dirty online pictures of themselves!" I can't help but think the former has progressed into the latter, and much it is hysteria designed to make you afraid of that awful Internet and the things it is doing to your innocent children.

    Posted by Modemac August 30, 09 09:37 AM
  1. Is it not already banned? What a country.

    Posted by Doug August 30, 09 06:02 PM
  1. Ban everything! Ban everything now! We should only be allowed to sit on our front steps and watch the clouds go by. As we are sitting there, the ill bred, the improperly parented and the most adventurous of adolesents wil be off in their rooms with their boy/girl friends making fetuses to abort.

    Posted by RugBurn August 30, 09 09:50 PM
  1. Banning sexting in the school will do nothing, I guarantee it. I'm 15 (What am I doing on a parenting website? It's 3 am and I'm bored), so obviously I go to high school and have some familiarity on the issue. Sexting can sometimes be considered illegal in the first place (students caught with sexts on their phones have been given child pornography charges in the past) and banning it is like banning alcohol in schools, it's like "well, DUH". And most sexting, along with most drug and alcohol use and most actual sex goes on off of school property and outside of school hours. The school can, say, expel any student found with sexts on their phone, but that's really the farthest schools can reach. The thing my friends and I find appalling is that anyone would want to a) send a dirty pic to a partner or b) date someone who would want to send you a degrading picture of themselves like that. A girl at my old school figured out the hard way that if you send your boyfriend/girlfriend a sext, and you end up having a nasty breakup, you're pretty much screwed.

    Posted by caro lives and lets live July 14, 10 03:07 AM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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