Sexting is taking parents and teachers by surprise around the United States, leaving many to wonder how it became so common.
The definition of sexting according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is: the sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone.
“Having sex through text by saying nasty and provocative messages, and sending nude pictures so that it can lead to something else in face-to-face contact,” said Interviewee 1, is what sexting for teenagers means. (Note: people can sext by using text messages or any platform that allows people to have a conversation.)
Sexting is considered illegal for minors when they have sexually explicit pictures of other minors on their phones. The laws in effect are the possession of child pornography laws. Although sexting is illegal for minors, this doesn’t affect their decisions on committing the crime.
Interviewees’ ages ranged from 16-19 years old. All interviewees became involved in the sexting act at the age of 14-15 years old. Some were the initiators while others were the victims who did not ask for the sexually explicit pictures or “sext” messages.
Puberty is a stage in a teenager’s life when an adolescent reaches sexual maturity and becomes capable of sexual reproduction. Puberty is just one of the second major causes of sex-ting according to our interviewees. Interviewees believed that the biggest cause of sexting is technology. Interviewee 3 believes that sexting “will still be a controversial topic because tech-nology will become much better.”
All interviewees who were committing the crime were aware that what they were doing was illegal, but some still decided to do it because they felt mature enough to handle the photos, and others just didn’t care that they were breaking the law.
After sexting some felt guilty or bad after receiving the pictures. Interviewee 4 said, “I felt good but at the same time I knew the pictures were wrong.” Chaparral High School senior Juan “Ockz” Vargas felt uncomfortable when sent a sexually explicit picture because he “received it without asking.”
The interviewees were asked if they had any advice to give to others who might be experiencing the same thing.
“Don’t show it to anyone, you wouldn’t like it if you got exposed,” said Ockz.
Interviewee 1 said, “Be responsible with each other’s pictures and keep it between each other.”
Chaparral High School senior David-Angel Alvarado recommends that if you ever do sext, “Don’t show your face.”
Sexting is more wide spread than adults realize. According to the global non-profit organization known as Do Something, 24 percent of teens in high school have been involved in the sending of sexually-explicit pictures, this means that 1 in 4 teens have sexted. According to the US Census Bureau there are approximately 41,731,223 teens in the United States of America, this means that approximately 10,015,493 teens are sexting across the U.S.
Some interviewees decided to stay anonymous and for that reason interviewees are numbered 1-4 but two decided to stay on the record.
Underage sexting is a crime commonly committed by youth in high schools, middle schools and even some elementary schools nationwide. Chaparral High School’s newspaper, The Howler, looks to shed light on the issue by creating three different stories, one from the perspective of male students who were perpetrators or victims of sexting, one from the perspective of female students who were perpetrators or victims of sexting, and one based on New Mexico and Texas laws governing sexting by minors and sexting between a minor and an adult. The objective of the three stories is to determine the frequency of perpetrators and victims in Chaparral, to warn of the different crimes that are committed through sexting and to express the severity of each crime through possible court sentencing. Although the articles are entirely based on Chaparral schools and surrounding areas, they may be used as a starting point to warn students of the severity of sexting and the court sentences that could follow.
The creation of the three stories is based on student input and laws directly from legal sources. Each story is factually accurate meaning that when opinions are used they are intended as opinions and when facts are used they are based on reliable sources. The stories are intended to warn and not to convince but may convince when laws and consequences are highlighted.
The Howler decided to maintain student anonymity to minimize the harm that may be caused. Students were told to describe their situations regarding sexting and The Howler committed to keeping students anonymous so said students would not face legal jeopardy. Information gathered was used purely to inform our readers.