Posted: Wednesday, January 8th 2014 at 11:27pm
Gwinnett Police: "Sexting" a growing threat among teens
By Bryan Pirkle Staff
BUFORD - Officials with the Special Victims Unit of the Gwinnett County Police Department are reaching out to the public in an effort to educate individuals, especially children and teenagers, on the potential dangers of sending or receiving nude pictures through any form of technology or social media.
Corporal Jake Smith with the G.C.P.D. says that using electronic devices to send illicit or nude photographs, a trend known to many as “sexting,” is becoming more and more commonplace, especially among youths.
“Our department sees probably one or two of these [cases] each month…yet we know that there are far more that go unreported. Our detectives seem to be encountering these types of cases on a more frequent basis,” he said.
During the course of their investigation into the increasing frequency of “sexting” cases, Gwinnett County detectives came across numerous studies that detail the severity of the problem.
“Some say as many as a quarter of all teens are participating in sexting in some form or fashion, whether they are actually taking the photos and sending them, or if maybe they have been on the receiving end, even unsolicited. It varies on the other end as well; it may be as few as one in ten, or one in twelve,” Smith explained.
Smith said it was important that people realize the legal implications of sending or receiving these types of pictures, especially in cases involving anyone under the age of 18. According to O.C.G.A. 16-12-100, the section of Georgia law that deals with the sexual exploitation of children, “it is unlawful for any person knowingly to create, reproduce, publish, promote, sell, distribute, give, exhibit, or possess with intent to sell or distribute any visual medium which depicts a minor or a portion of a minor’s body engaged in any sexually explicit conduct.”
Smith added: “Of course, the people who possess such photos can be charged, but also the people that are willingly taking them and sending them – they can also be charged. It’s essentially considered the manufacture and distribution of child pornography.”
Aside from any potential legal ramifications that could arise from sending or receiving these types of pictures, it is important to remember that orchestrating the removal or deletion of such images can be extremely problematic. Smith said it is critical that those currently practicing, or thinking of engaging in, this behavior remember that a photograph will not necessarily be seen by only the intended party.
“What we see in cases that we investigate is that these photos will go ‘viral’ within a community, specifically a high school community, usually, and we have these young people’s lives that are being affected by their entire peer group being able to see these photos that they took and sent in confidence,” Smith said. He added: “It’s very difficult, or impossible, in a lot of cases to take back a photo once it goes out onto the internet.”
Because most of the department’s outreach effort is focused on teenagers, Smith said that it was the responsibility of parents and guardians to ensure that children are avoiding these types of irresponsible behavior.
“The best solution in this whole scenario is prevention, and that’s gonna take the parents being very involved,” he said.
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