Twenty middle and high-school students in the US are facing charges of privacy invasion after investigators swooped in and collected 27 phones, finding numerous photos of nude and partially nude female students being swapped by male students via text message and social media.
According to the office of the prosecutor in Cape May, New Jersey, the sexting investigation is centered on the Lower Cape May Regional High School and the Richard M. Teitelman Middle School.
On 23 April, school officials were tipped off by a female student who told them that naked photos of a friend were being texted to male students around the school.
The subsequent investigation has led to 19 juveniles and 1 adult (as the student is 18 years old) being charged with Invasion of Privacy, which is a third-degree crime.
The maximum penalty for third-degree crimes is five years in prison for adult offenders and up to two years in a juvenile detention facility for those under the age of 18.
Having said that, maximum penalties are seldom imposed, particularly with first-time offenders.
Cape May County Prosecutor Robert L. Taylor said in a release that students have got to realise that passing around naked images can have serious repercussions, including prosecution:
It is imperative that these students understand the severity of their actions and the impact that their actions have on themselves, their victims, and the community. Students in other Cape May County schools should be aware that these actions are criminal and can lead to prosecution.
Unfortunately, sexting, and the invasion of privacy it so often brings, has become normalised in children’s lives.
According to a 2013 poll of 500 children conducted by ChildLine, 60% had been asked to send a sexual image or video.
Of those polled, 38% had complied.
Those numbers are a few years old. It’s probably safe to presume that the situation has grown worse.
But even dated figures point to a plethora of images that can be used for sexual cybercrime directed at kids, including sextortion, cyberbullying or the swapping of child abuse images by paedophiles.
In fact, around the same tine that the poll results came out, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) said that it had tracked a “marked rise in self-generated sexual content featuring young people”.
Some of those sexts are intercepted and sold, said Susie Hargreaves, chief executive of the IWF:
A snapshot study conducted by IWF analysts over a 47-hour period found well over 12,000 self-generated images and videos of young people online. Most recently, we see images and videos being gathered together and sold for commercial gain.
Sexting images can also be used by children to cyberbully each other, which, in turn, has resulted in numerous suicides or suicide attempts.
Beyond the considerable harm that can come to sexting victims after losing control of their nude photos, there are also consequences for young people who share the images, given that they run the risk of facing legal charges, and in certain cases the potential for being labeled a registered sex offender.
With that label can come difficulty in getting hired or attaining housing, licensing, and educational financial benefits.
Anybody who plans to share a nude photo without a subject’s permission should seriously think about backing off from hitting that “send” button.
It’s a simple act, pressing that button.
It’s far too simple, given that it has the potential to haunt people for years to come.
If you’re a parent, you might like to check out our tips to help keep your kids safe online, as well as the apps you should be aware of.
Image of student checking phone courtesy of Shutterstock.
3 comments on “20 students charged in school sexting scandal”
Ah yes, using the court system to replace parenting and “the belt”. What a waste.
There seems to be a rise in sexting and all of the adds on TV or the papers are not making a difference in putting a stop to this. Schools across North America have to have a reality check to protect their students. One suggestion would be to have a school tour of the inside of an over night holding facility during a time when cells are empty conducted by an intimidating fully dressed police officer. The officer would take them though the fully procedure on what happens when they have been arrested to how their record will affect them in the future. Students must be made aware of how their actions also affect their family members, therefore it may also be a good idea to have these students accompanied by a parent if possible. Never assume that all students listen to the news. Teachers could set aside 10 or 15 minutes before class anytime such incidents hit the media anywhere in the country.
“Schools across North America have to have a reality check to protect their students.”
That is not the job/role of an educational institution (and definitely not limited to North America at all). Your suggestion is fine. Educating them as to the consequences and conditions, The Schools, however, should not be the ones to “police” such activity. I highly doubt that a majority of the pictures are generated on premise (Shared, yes.. but not generated).
Why phones are allowed in schools is still beyond me. There is no argument to defend it, as there is plenty more data to support it not being needed.
Need to contact your child? Call the office. Child needs to contact a parent? Go to the office.
Parents need to stop being friends and start being parents to their children. Parents need to protect them. Mine already know that misuse/abuse of an electronic device will alleviate them of access to said device for as long as they’re under my roof… be it a phone, PC, game console, whatever… I don’t do it to be a jerk. I do it because I have the mental capability to look 10, 20, 30 years down the road… and they are children who live in the here and now.
I’ve seen the “evil” which can exist in the world.. their lives are sheltered and their concept of the world is much smaller.
If need be, create a curriculum to help educate them. If they’re caught doing things on school grounds, do what is necessary and within jurisdiction. For heaven’s sake, do not step in as their “protector” and guardian. They have one (hopefully) already.
Oddly enough (and to my knowledge), there is no “law” course in schools. We’re bound by laws, yet we never really get told those laws outside of parents.. well.. and driving. You’re taught that killing and stealing are wrong.. by a number of different sources. How many people (even adults) know every law that they’re bound by? We know the big ones, but there are a plethora of laws out there which one could violate and not know until faced with the consequences.
To put a stop to this, it needs to be addressed at the source. The pictures have to never occur in the first place. If the picture doesn’t exist, it cannot be shared. In a child’s mind, it is no different than finding a and showing it off to friends. They don’t see it as an invasion of privacy issue. They probably have no concept of how that even applies. The picture is a “thing” not a person, thus why would it be? If the picture was shared in the first place, then it is meant to be seen right?
We, as adults, can think of this as adults. Holding a child to the same mindset is ludicrous. Also, turning 18 doesn’t mentally make a child an instant adult. I was a “mature” child at a young age, but I wouldn’t say I really, “mentally” became an adult until I had a few years under my belt.. working for my living, paying my own bills, having to decide if I want to go to the bar this weekend or eat something other than Ramen noodles for a week to pay for that… Knowing a thing, and feeling the full impact of a thing are not one in the same.