December 2, 2013
When you send out a naughty picture.. where does it go? It doesn't always land solely in the hands of its original recipient.
Sexting is becoming more common among middle and high school students.
Albemarle County Public Schools, the county Commonwealth Attorney's Office, the Albemarle County Police Department, and Safe Schools/Healthy Students came together on Monday night to help put an end to sending sexually explicity messages and photographs and let parents know how damaging what their kids are doing on the internet can be.
Albemarle County's police chief say sexting is growing exponentially.
"It is a very serious issue and I'm not sure that our students have understood all of the repercussions that some of their decisions are making," said June Jenkins of Safe Schools, Healthy Students.
The forum brought together several perspectives on sexting with a panel made up of the different organizations who put on the event Monday night.
Sexting is a growing problem and major distraction in our classrooms. Police say in the last seven weeks they've dealt with eight reports of sexting in local schools and it's more than just pictures and messages being passed phone to phone.
"These photos now in this internet age do not go away," said Darby Lowe, the Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney. Lowe says they take a reasonable approach to sexting in the courts, but says, in some cases, it can be a serious matter with massive ramifications.
Panelists say it's not about getting kids in trouble with the law but about educating them on the consequences.
"If it's a picture of a minor, you could be charged with child pornography. If you distribute that or send it to a friend or a bunch of friends, you could be charged with distributing child pornography," said Sellers.
Both felony charges and could land you on the sex offender registry.
Leaders say that's why they're trying to get in front of the problem.. so students know the consequences before hitting send.
"It's put on their personal billboard, that is basically open to the world. And I think we just want kids to make informed decisions," said Jenkins.
The other part to this is safety.
Metadata is sometimes embedded in digital pictures. This information can tell anyone looking at that photo exactly where it was taken. This becomes a problem when predators are on the prowl.
Police say it's a good idea to turn off the location services on your cell phone before snapping any picture.
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