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

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.)

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.

Lindsay Hodges April 08, 2014 at 11:18 AM
It starts at home with the parents....bottom line. Values, morals, self worth, teaching right from wrong and consequences, steep ones that will truly teach them why their mistakes could damage them in many different ways for many years to comes in some situations. And parents need to be more aware of what their kids are doing, call it being nosey, snooping, checking up, whatever but until age 18 u have that right, and their actions reflect your parenting skills and values and morals that you expect in your kids and home.
Lindsay Hodges April 08, 2014 at 11:30 AM
Also parents need to be communicating with their kids, dont always think "mine would never" because those are the kids more likely to do something dumb such as sexting or getting pregnant before graduating, drinking and driving, etc because their parents are in denial, thinking that their kids would never act that way....sure at home or grandma's they might not but without someone to remind them of the all the reasons sexting and tons of other teenage mistakes can be so incredibly damaging to them. Parents should also stick with there gut instincts, if something is telling u that your teen is up to no good, well then they probably are. Go investigate, they may hate u at the moment for it, but 10yrs down the road they may thank you for it. We are the ones responsible for guideing them in this crazy world, were responsible for teaching them to think before they act, and not to follow the crowds bc the crowd tends to be gone once they are paying the prices for their actions. Teaching and re-teaching or reminding them of these things doesnt end when they are old enough to stay home alone or go to public places alone, it ends when they legally become adults. Alot of parents tend to forget that teenagers need more guidance than toddlers somtimes, its just a different type of guidance and parenting.
Chuck Burton April 08, 2014 at 11:46 AM
So called "juveniles" are sexual beings, just as much as so called "adults". Their newly awakened hormones conflict with their still immature values, and such things as sexting and pregnancy are the result. Do the schools help them to resolve the problem? No, they are mainly concerned with readin', writin' and 'rithmatic, not morals, values and logic. The parents have only as much of these as they have learned from their parents or through experience, and many haven't learned much.
Ligoc Cogil April 08, 2014 at 07:01 PM
Here's how the "talk will go" .... So there's other kids all over the world who take these pictures and put them on instagram to get attention from guys..... We don't want you doing it. He/She will say.......Okay mom.......... can i borrow your camera?
Ligoc Cogil April 08, 2014 at 07:05 PM
Call me a pervert but maybe we should learn from them and not be so uptight about our bodies. Sure we can say it's morals...but is it really something to be ashamed of? By the time they are our age the media will be commenting on how much clothes people are wearing. Our society's not based on religion anymore... we gave that up years ago.(yeah yeah now call me a infidel or what ever you want ... then go pretend like you are a moral person)

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