Recent reports from The Nielsen Company and the Pew Research Center point toward a handful of factors that should be causing concern for parents and guardians. These problems are also an opportunity for solution providers. There is a rise in the percentage of teenagers that use cellular phones, the amount of texting they do, and potentially much more serious the percentage of young adults that are occupied with “sexting” – the sending of potentially illegal images or text messages from mobile phones.
A 2009 UK survey of 2,094 teens aged 11 to 18 discovered that 38% had received an “offensive or distressing” sexual picture by text or email.
In 2008, a Virginia assistant principal was arrested for having child pornography and related crimes after he had been asked to investigate a rumored sexting episode at the high school where he worked. Upon finding a student in possession of a photo on his cellphone that depicted the torso of a girl wearing only underpants, her arms mostly covering her breasts, the assistant principal showed the image to the principal who directed him to keep the picture on his computer as proof, which he did. The court later decided that the image did not amount to child pornography due to the fact under Virginia law, nudity alone is not adequate to qualify an image as child pornography; the image has to be “sexually explicit”. Loudoun County Prosecutor James Plowman stands by his initial assessment of the image and states he would not have pursued the case if the assistant principal had agreed to resign. Instead, the assistant principal got a second mortgage on his house and spent $150,000 in attorneys’ fees to clear his name.
In July 2010, Londonderry High School teacher Melinda Dennehy pled guilty and received a one-year suspended sentence for transmitting racy images of herself to a fifteen year old pupil. In Fort Wayne, Indiana, a teenage boy was indicted on felony obscenity charges for purportedly distributing a picture of his genitals to various female schoolmates. Yet another young man was faced with child pornography in a similar case.
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