Early Morning House Call: Sexting

By: Dr. Alan Xenakis Email
By: Dr. Alan Xenakis Email

KBTX Medical Contributor Dr. Alan Xenakis from the Texas A&M Health Science Center wrote the following after his appearance on Brazos Valley This Morning Tuesday:

On my way to KBTX this morning, I changed my story planned for today from heart disease to sexting. It struck me to be appropriate because any harm to our children breaks all our hearts. It also occurs to me that the solution to sexting and our children needs a positive strategy, not a negative one.

With divorce on the rise, the economy in the dumpster forcing us to work and burn the veritable candle at both ends, and our children’s self esteem at an all time low we can’t legislate solutions, not for our precious children! I ask you to take the time and post your comments!

That’s why beginning today, I am asking my wonderful students at Texas A&M’s Health Science Center to help us understand the reasons why our children are sexting. My hope is that with these reasons we will be able to find solutions that work…

Please consider the following (I am not being blaming or judging here):

- How long do you spend with your teen each day discussing their day?

- Do you spend time with your children building up their leadership skills?

- Do you help your child build up their self-esteem?

Unfortunately, it’s a growing trend that signals issues of low self esteem and lack of quality leadership and guidance time with family and friends.

The ability to have secretive calls and with a fake identity at all hours of the night coupled with hormone changes, low self-esteem, and lack of direction and role modeling seems to create an atmosphere ripe for our teens to become obsessed with discussing and imaging inappropriate sexual behavior.

What would you do if you received a the call from your school principal, teacher, or town police officer saying your child was detained by local authorities for possession of child pornography on his/her cell phone?

“Sexting”, or sending sexually explicit text messages or images via cell phone text, has become popular not just among teen boyfriends and girlfriends but among people who don’t know one another except through the mysterious veil of shadows created by the social media.

Many parents and teens are not aware of the felony charges that loom and the emotional scars that may follow should those revealing photos ever become publicly revealed.

A 2008 report from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy showed that 22 percent of teen girls had sent or posted online nude or semi-nude images of themselves.

More than 40% of teens and young adults say they have had a sexually suggestive message (originally meant to be private) shown to them and 20% say they have shared such a message with someone other than the person for whom is was originally meant. If that message is forwarded, it is now distribution of child pornography. Once content hits cyberspace, it never entirely goes away.

Protecting our children and building their self esteem now will save them from felony charges as a pedophile and the emotional disaster that can happen after word gets out to their peers.

Consider the fact that Texas lawmakers will soon look at teen 'sexting' laws with the hope that “cracking down” on teens who send sexually explicit text messages by making the penalties less severe will decrease the rising trend of teen sexting.

It seems that current penalties can be so severe that sometimes the crime is not prosecuted. As the law stands now, if the image is sent, the crime is classified as distribution of child pornography and whoever receives the image would be in possession of child pornography, which is a federal felony. Anyone convicted of possessing child pornography faces a prison sentence and will be required to register as a sex offender.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott joined State Senator Kick Watson, who announced the filing of Senate Bill 407, legislation will help curb the dangerous practices of sexting. Both men support the Senate 407, a bill that would discourage ‘sexting’.

If passed, the bill would also change the charge to a Class C misdemeanor for first-time violators less than 18- years old. Under the proposed legislation a minor convicted of sexing and one of the minor's parents would have to participate in an education program about the long term consequences of the action. If Senate Bill 407 passes it will go into effect in September. The bill already has bipartisan support in the state capitol.

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