Digital cameras and cell phone cameras have made it easy to take photographs. Unfortunately some young people misuse this technology. When young people engage in “sexting” (taking and sharing sexual photos), it can do lasting harm.
How it happens: Some inappropriate photos are taken for a current boyfriend or girlfriend, or to attract the attention of another young person. In some instances young people have been pressured or tricked into taking inappropriate pictures by another young person or an adult.
How it spreads: After a teenage couple breaks up, the sexual photos may be shared and circulate widely throughout a school or peer group. Regardless of how or why it is created, once a digital image has been shared via any electronic media it is virtually impossible to retrieve. Nude or suggestive photos are routinely posted, traded, and sold. They can be altered and misused, and remain in circulation forever.
How law enforcement gets involved: If a photo shows a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct it may be treated as child pornography by law enforcement. Producing, possessing or distributing the photo could lead to criminal charges regardless of the original intent of the photographer. In addition, the young person’s parents or guardians may be questioned to determine if they knew about the photograph.
Videos, too: In addition to misusing still photography, young people sometimes misuse webcams to transmit sexual images of themselves. Many experts believe the dangers and risks of webcam misuse outweigh any potential benefits for young people.
Young people often act on impulse. They don’t recognize the long-term consequences of actions like misusing digital images. Parents and guardians should exercise control over digital cameras, camera phones and webcams to make sure they are being used appropriately.