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Parents should know, sexting creates a lifetime stigma

Published January 22. 2010 05:00PM

Carbon County District Attorney Gary Dobias is working to make sure parents are aware that they are an important part of the equation and necessary to help deal with the "sexting" issue.

"I want students and their parents to know the most important thing about sexting is to realize the social and legal consequences of this action," Dobias said after a presentation at Panther Valley High School yesterday.

When several hundred to thousands of people receive such photographs, it could create a long-lasting if not lifetime stigma and parents need to be aware of this too. He added that many parents don't realize it is a crime and their children could be prosecuted if they participate in it.

He stressed that the statistics are alarming, especially the fact that 15 percent of students have sent an explicit photo to a total stranger online, 25 percent don't realize it is a crime and think it is not a big deal. Also, 22 percent of teen girls have sent such photos as well as 20 percent of teen boys. And, 38 percent believe sexting makes dating more likely.

He said adults and parents really need to sit down with their children and explain to them the consequences of these actions.

"Sexting images could exist in cyberspace practically forever and be seen by hundreds of people at least," he said. "They definitely can affect a student's future as well as involve them in the legal system."

He encourages parents to talk with their children about appropriate and inappropriate behaviors and remind them that anything that is placed out on the Internet lasts practically forever. This could affect their ability to get a job, deal with people and perhaps even receive security clearances when they are adults.

In addition it is a crime that could be a stigma that follows one forever. It could lead to the person being arrested and being registered as a sex offender as well as go to prison.

"The judge could impose other conditions as well," Dobias said.

When asked what parents should do if they suspect something is happening, he said they should treat it as they would any other crime.

"Tell their children not to let themselves get involved in it."

If someone does send a photo to your child, at the very least, "it should not be forwarded to anyone and it should be deleted immediately."

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