Sexting: Dangerous Type of Cyberbullying Claims a Life

Mar 11, 2009

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When I speak with parents and teachers about the online phenomena that is cyberbullying, the same question is asked again and again. "What is cyberbullying and how do I know if my child is involved in it?"

While the defintition of cyerbullying is easy, the answer is not.

Cyberbullying.us defines cyberbullying as "willful and repeated harm inflicted through the medium of electronic text." While this holds true for the early online technologies like instant messaging, forum boards and chat, this definition has now been broadened to include images, video, audio and other technologies that teens and tweens are using.

A recent trend in cyberbullying is "sexting". Sexting is the electronic exchange of suggestive photos, mostly taken and sent via cell phone. This is a new and alarming issue that needs to be tackled fast and head on. Roughly 20 percent of teens admit to participating in "sexting," according to a nationwide survey (pdf) by the National Campaign to Support Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. 

This particular type of cyberbullying snares many victims in its trap. If those involved are under 18, it’s child pornography, and even the girl that posted the pictures can be charged with a federal crime. Sending or sharing the photo to anyone under 18 is also a crime, disseminating pornography to a minor. There is also a very good chance at being labeled a sex offender. At such young ages, those involved in this heinous act don't understand the consequences. But if you think that these crimes are the worst consequence, think again.

The loss of a life due to this type of behavior is the ultimate price that is paid. If you want to know the true effect that hitting that send button and transmitting that inappropriate photo on your phone to a boyfriend or girlfriend has, simply ask Cynthia Logan.

Cynthia Logan's daughter, Jessica Logan took her own life as a result of a nude photo she had sent to her boyfriend. When the couple broke up, the boyfriend forwarded the photo to a group of girls at the same school. These girls "attacked and tortured" Jessica at school regularly, according to Cynthia Logan. The school was not properly equipped to deal with this type of problem and did not take sufficient measures to prevent the harassment.

Because cell phone cameras are so ubiquitous and the current trend of social networking is very integral in the lives of today's youth, this frightening trend is on the rise. Parents and educators now more than ever need to get involved and educate their children about safety and consequences in using everyday technologies, be it on the computer, video game console or cell phone.