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Does Your Teen Get the Picture on Privacy? Teen-Sexting Probe of Instagram Photos

A teen-sexting investigation in Virginia may be a good way for Maryland parents to talk with their children about the appropriate use of cell phones. Have you had the talk?

Investigation uncovered more than 1,000 photos sent by teens. (Screen grab from WTVR.)
Investigation uncovered more than 1,000 photos sent by teens. (Screen grab from WTVR.)
By Deb Belt

A "massive" teen-sexting investigation spanning six Virginia counties is under way following the discovery of nude photographs of a 14-year-old and two 15-year-olds on Instagram.

The online buzz about the problem can be a way for parents everywhere to talk to their teens about using good judgment in their texts and on social media. Sexting – sharing inappropriate photos – can be classified as child pornography that is against the law, so it carries criminal risks as well as social and emotional harm for teens, say parenting experts.

WTVR-TV reports that investigators have uncovered more than 1,000 sexually explicit photos being shared on two Instagram accounts involving more than 100 teens. So far, Albemarle, Fluvanna, Orange, Goochland, and Hanover counties are involved, but the investigation is continuing.

Investigators have seized nearly 24 cellphones in the investigation, the station reported. 

How do you monitor the texts your teens send? Do you check their phones to see what conversations they’ve had? And, how do you talk with your teens about what is appropriate and what isn’t?

Share your ideas in comments, below.

While some states have enacted criminal laws specifically against sexting, Maryland has not. In Maryland, teens who engage in sexting can be prosecuted and punished for child pornography and related crimes.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says about 20 percent of teen boys and girls have sent “sexting” messages. Here are some of their tips for how to talk with your children:

  • Talk to your kids, even if the issue hasn’t directly affected your community. “Have you heard of sexting?” “Tell me what you think it is.        
  • Use examples appropriate for your child’s age. For teens, be specific that “sexting” often involves pictures of a sexual nature and is considered pornography.
  • Make sure kids of all ages understand that sexting is serious and considered a crime in many jurisdictions. There will be serious consequences, quite possibly involving the police, suspension from school, and notes on the sexter’s permanent record that could hurt their chances of getting into college or getting a job.
  • Experts say peer pressure can play a major role in the sending of texts, with parties being a major contributing factor. Collecting cell phones at gatherings of tweens and teens is one way to reduce this temptation.
  • Monitor the news for stories about “sexting” that illustrate the consequences for both senders and receivers of these images. “Have you seen this story?” “What did you think about it?” “What would you do if you were this child?” Rehearse ways they can respond if asked to participate in inappropriate texting.

Patch Editor Todd Richissin contributed to this story.

Ricardo A Dominguez April 08, 2014 at 10:47 AM
Authorities in the New Haven area, should confiscate kids' phones. You will see they not only send pictures related to sexting but other pictures related to hate, sexual harrassment, intimidation, satanic cults, drug use, and others. I challenge the authorities to create a Commission that deals with this kind of activities. Do you know what your child is doing with the cell phone while spending time in the bathroom? Children cell phone accounts shall be canceled by authorities if such data is found on their phones. Big fines must be put in place against cell phone providers that allow this kind of behavior to continue without any kind of punishment, according to company's agreements and regulations. Perhaps, some parents don't care about what their teens are doing back stage. Our teens are playing with fire and they will get burned if we do not do something. Remember, our teens were, once, our little babies.
randy albin April 08, 2014 at 02:16 PM
how appalling is this? when i was young, this stuff was shown in the x-rated theatres and bookstores. no wonder there is so much going on. raising kids in this kind of sleaze and smut is incomprehensible. someone clean up this stuff pronto. enough said, period
Mike Hunter April 09, 2014 at 11:00 AM
we educate our teens and we take their phones every night at 9 before bed or at least i'll take them before i go to bed and they get them back from me or my wife in the morning. i DO read her text from time to time if i feel something isn't right. YES they can delete text if they wish ( i threaten that i can check the bill and i can see when they're deleting their text Lol ) ...u just gotta educate them and love them and hope they make right decisions.
nitagregory April 09, 2014 at 01:08 PM
Yeah you can check their phones if they are not paying bills. Food in the fridge. Clothes on their own backs. I would with all these perves man or woman.I am not taking care of no babies. Going to the clinic for a STD checks.or being kidnapped across the country.
Chuck Burton May 01, 2014 at 10:29 AM
Kids are curious about sex from the time of puberty, and even before. It's a basic human instinct, and if it ever goes away, so will the human race. BUT, modern methods of communication make it necessary that parents do more than a basic birds and bees talk with their youngsters. They need to get over any qualms and be absolutely honest and open about what is safe and unsafe, and what can happen as a result of any kind of sexual behavior. Work with the kids, not against them. They will appreciate it.

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