The teen years are a time of exploration and discovery of who we are, and a large part of that exploration is in the realm of sexuality. With the rise of the digital age, we see an increasing amount of this exploration taking place on social media in the form of what is known as ‘sexting’. Sexting is defined as the sharing of sexually explicit messages and/or images via cell phone and other digital means.
Many people tend to associate sexting with teen males and they fail to realize that females are equally involved in this kind of activity.
“I don’t really see a problem with teens sending pictures,” says a female senior Lobo at Chaparral High School (CHS) who wishes to remain anonymous. “It’s our body, so it’s not really anybody else’s business.”
Many teens fail to recognize the risks of sexting, but they are ever present and more dangerous than ever in today’s society “Once you send a picture the other person has it and they can do anything and it’s kind of scary,” says a female freshman at CHS.
Regardless of the risks, several females engage in these activities. “I know it can be dangerous with the wrong person but I trust my boyfriend,” says a senior Lobo. She, along with several other females at CHS, has engaged in these activities multiple times. “It’s not like he’s forcing me to send them so it doesn’t matter.”
On the other side of the same spectrum are the females that send explicit messages and photos because they feel as though they have to. “Sometimes it’s the difference between him loving you and him leaving you,” says a junior Lobo. In situations like this, a teen’s judgment can be clouded by teenage feelings and hormones, leading them to ignore possible risks.
Teens feeling pressured into sending explicit messages and images brings to light a terrifying aspect of teen sexting. At what point does sexting turn from exploration to exploitation? Several teens are either pressured or threatened into sending images that they do not want to send. Blackmail can easily become a part of the process. “He told me if I didn’t send another one he would send my last one to his friend,” says a lobo from CHS. “I guess I felt like I had to or he would start s**t.”
All of this information comes together to show that females as well as males take part in sexting activities. Perhaps sexting is a healthy part of teenage sexual development and perhaps it can be dangerous, but no matter your perspective, it is a fact that teenagers are constantly engaging in sexual activity via their cell phones and computers.
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.