By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG -- What is sexting and how to deal with it was the subject of a 90-minute Dragon Parent Night at the Donald H. Eichhorn Middle School on Monday night.
"This is depressing material, and it might be somewhat overwhelming to the parents here," began special agent Craig S. LeCadre, of the state's attorney general office. "But it's important because in this state sexting is a crime, a felony 3, and there is no minimum age. The law reads 'anybody' who commits the crime can be charged. A felony stays on your record. Young kids, teens don't realize just how serious the consequences can be. They don't realize the long-term consequences of their acts."
A combination of the words "sex" and "text messaging," "sexting" is the sending of sexually explicit messages via cell phone or instant messenger.
A revealing study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl magazine said 20 percent of teens and 33 percent of young adults (ages 20-26) have shared nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves either via text or by posting online.
Girls are culprits
The study also revealed that teen girls are more likely to do this than boys and 11 percent of the teen girls ages 13-16 admitted to sending suggestive photos of themselves.
LeCadre and five other officers in his department speak to about 250,000 children and parents a year, he said.
"I'm out to educate them about the importance of being safe online," LeCadre explained. "But what I have to say is not pretty and it's very, very scary."
Children at a very early age have technical abilities far beyond what their parents have or even understand, he said.
"What these youngsters lack are life experiences; they're naive," he added. "Parents, on the other hand, have all that life experience, but lack the technical know-how. And there lies the rub. Parents simply don't understand or know what their kids are doing online. Kids are tricky. They create aliases. It's all fun when they're young, but there are predators out there fishing for them. These Internet predators, they're professionals by day and monsters by night. We see a lot of that."