Monday, September 26, 2011

What Do You Think?: Sexting


8th grade Leah went to her brother's high school football game Friday night. She wasn't "popular" in middle school, but not known as a "nerd" either. She didn't really stand out in any way. So when a cute 10th grader started talking to her during the game, she was flattered. At the end of the night, they exchanged numbers and stayed up until the early morning hours sending text messages to each other. The same thing happened the next night. Leah was excited, butterflies in her stomach. If she entered as a freshman with an 11th grade boyfriend the next year, her popularity would definitely skyrocket. She was determined to make this happen.

Saturday night the text messages started to get a little more mature. He asked her what she was wearing. When she tried to describe it, he said, "cute. send a pic." So she did. He told her he wished he could see what she really looked like under her big shirt, instead of imagining it. After a pause, Leah thought, "What's the harm? Then he'll know he definitely wants to date me, right?" So she took a picture of herself again, but without her shirt this time, asked for a pic from him, and hit "Send." He never responded, but she assumed he fell asleep.

On Sunday afternoon, Leah heard her brother yell from his room. Leah's mom came running up the stairs to his room, then Leah heard her scream and Leah went running to see what was wrong. Leah's mom was shaking and crying on the floor and her brother looked up and showed her his phone...on it was the picture she'd taken for the cute 10th grade boy.

Questions for Discussion:

1. What do you think happens next for Leah? Do you think it stops here? Do you think that this situation could happen in real life? Read this article to find out.

2. Look at the above definition for sexting. If you sent a text to your friend saying, "hung out last nite with jessie. back corner, movie theater...parking lot. dats rite," would you consider it sexting? Why or why not?

3. If you received a naked pic of your boyfriend or girlfriend, would you show it to others? Do you think you could get in trouble for passing it along?

4. If you received a "sext" from someone, what would you do? What if it was about your best friend, your sister, your brother, your cousin? Who is someone that you could tell about this to help stop it from spreading further?

5. If you're comfortable watching this with your mentee, view this Motorola ad from the 2010 Superbowl of Megan Fox. She is supposedly advertising a phone, but what kind of message do you think this sends to viewers, especially teens?

Factoids: (taken from a national online survey)

**20% of teens (ages 13-19) & 11% of young teen girls (ages 13-16) have sent/ posted a nude or semi-nude picture or video of themselves

**39% of teens have sent or posted a sexually suggestive message; 48% have received one.

**47% of teens say “pressure from guys” is a reason girls send and post sexually suggestive messages and images. 24% of teens say “pressure from friends” is a reason guys send and post sexually suggestive messages and images.

**4 in 10 teen girls who have sent sexually suggestive content did so “as a joke” but many teen boys (29%) agree that girls who send such content are “expected to date or hook up in real life.”

What Can Mentors Do to Help Prevent This?

**Talk with your mentee about their cell phone and internet use. Make sure they understand that everything they send and post is not truly private or anonymous.

** Remind them about the consequences of taking, sending, or forwarding a sexual picture of someone underage, even if it’s of them. They could get kicked off of sports teams, face humiliation, lose educational opportunities, and even get in trouble with the law.

** Let them know that if they forward a sexual picture of someone underage, they are as responsible for this image as the original sender. They could face child pornography charges, go to jail, and have to register as a sex offender.

** Remind them that if they received an inappropriate text or noticed an inappropriate photo or post about someone online, that they should notify a parent or someone at school ASAP. They have the power to help stop the cycle of bullying and humiliation, and no one has to know it was them that spoke up...chances are that everyone else in their school saw it as well.

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