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April 21, 2010

Column #1,495

Sexting: A Dangerous Threat to Youth

 By Mike McManus

 

                America’s leading “tween girl” marketing consultancy, AK Tweens, reports that 30 percent of girls aged 9-15 are “sexting,” sending, receiving and/or posting sexy messages/photos of themselves in their underwear or without clothes online, and via cell phones/email.

 

                Another disturbing finding of the AK Tweens survey: a stunning 81 percent have received sexy messages/photos. That’s virtually everyone at this tender age!

 

                When asked why they send or post sexting messages, eight out of ten said they wanted to get attention; two-thirds hoped to be “cool;” 59 percent wanted to be like the popular girls and 54 percent said they hoped to find a boy friend.

 

                Younger tweens, aged 10-12, who received these messages or photos that upset them, would tell their parents, but older ones are less likely to do so, out of a fear their computers or cell phones would be taken away by parents.

 

                I asked Pat Trueman, former U.S. Justice Department Director of Child Exploitation and Obscenity prosecution, to explain the sexting phenomenon. “Let’s understand what sexting is.  It is children producing and distributing child pornography.  It is taboo for anyone to be involved in this.”

 

                Why are they doing so?  His answer is chilling:  “They have likely spent hours – and years – looking at Internet Porn, which has broken down their inhibition, to the point they are no longer bothered by child pornography.”

 

                Bob Peters, President of Morality in Media, offers a slightly different explanation: “A growing number of boys are looking at pornography and a significant number get hooked on it. The boys pressure girls to send them nude pictures. 

 

“The girls are under the impression that this is what the boys want.  They figure if they want to get the boys’ attention, this is one very effective way to do it,” Peters said.

 

“A third factor is that kids are NOT getting a strong unequivocal message that this is a moral and social evil. It is not taught by parents.  They are not hearing it at school. What they are seeing in the media, often has a porn theme, where it is treated non-judgmentally. Music videos are now being made by people who have created hard core pornography.”

 

Denise Restauri, AK Tweens founder,. states the danger bluntly: “Most parents of tween girls have a false sense of security that their daughters aren’t old enough to know or care about sexting, let alone participate, so they are less likely to talk about sexting and the consequences. They mistake not hearing about it from their daughters as a sign that it’s not happening.”

 

What can be done?  Here is a four point plan:

 

1.      Parents must intervene. “You pay the bill.  You own the phone.  Therefore, you have the right and responsibility to be a good watchdog,” says John Thurman, an expert in helping families deal with this issue. “Get out of denial and learn how to check up on your kid.”  If they plead for privacy, tell them privacy has to do with changing clothes and taking a bath – not with sexting.

 

2.      Install porn blockers. Here are two: “Safe Eyes” tracks your kids’ instant messaging, monitors online social networks and can impose online minute limits. www.websafety.com  offers software you can load into your child’s cell phone and computer alerts will advise you if inappropriate content goes out.

 

3.      Become informed. Pat Trueman has created a superb website. www.PornHarms.com with many articles on the scale of the problem, its diversity and impact.  There is no better one-step educational strategy than studying PornHarms.com.

 

4.      Demand that hard core obscenity laws be enforced. As I reported recently, the Obama Administration has not filed ONE case to prosecute the creators or distributors of obscenity.  Believe it or not, there are federal laws that make Internet Obscenity a crime.  The Bush II Administration filed cases that put some pornographers out of business, which have been upheld in Appellate Courts.

 

Trueman has launched a “War on Pornography” which prompted Sen. Orrin Hatch to

confront Attorney General Eric Holder: “How is this administration enforcing federal law prohibiting sexually explicit material that meets the Supreme Court’s definition of obscenity?”

 

                Holder replied that he will “certainly enforce the law.”

 

                Why not write Holder (10th Street & Constitution Ave, Washington DC 20530) and ask him to prosecute?  Or call your local U.S. Attorney and urge him to file some cases?

 

                If YOU don’t act, nothing will happen. If you do act, you might save thousands of kids.

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