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Teenage Sexting and Digital Abuse

Sexting is when someone under 18 years old sends a nude picture or video of themselves to another minor. The law is outlined in Florida Statute 847.0141. It is illegal if a minor knowingly uses a computer, or any other device capable of electronic data transmission or distribution, to transmit or distribute to another minor any photograph or video of any person which depicts nudity, possesses a photograph or video of any person that was transmitted or distributed by another minor which depicts nudity.

This is a relatively new law – passed within the last two years. The person sending the photo doesn’t have to be the person in the photo in order for this to be a violation of the law. A minor does not violate the law if they did not solicit the photograph or video, they took reasonable steps to report the photograph or video to the minor’s legal guardian or to a school or law enforcement official, and they did not transmit or distribute the photograph or video to a third party.

Sexting is common among teens – parents need to be aware that any device that can send images through a phone or computer can do it.

Did you know…

  • 20% of teens have sent/posted nude picture/videos of themselves?
  • 39% of teens are sending/posting sexually suggestive messages?
  • 71% are sending/posting nude pictures/videos of themselves to their boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • 39% teen boys are sending/posting nude pictures/videos of themselves to someone they want to date.
  • 15% of teens send nude pictures/videos of themselves to someone they only know online.
  • Almost half of teens stated they felt pressured to send the images.
  • (Statistics from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy)


What are the consequences?
The first violation is a civil violation. In our county, the State Attorney’s Office has implemented a program that involves alternative sanctions for the first violation – the minor would have to attend a counseling class, write a report, or potentially have restrictions on their mobile devices. If they fail to complete this program, they could face fines and community service. Subsequent violations could mean criminal charges. Perhaps the biggest consequence is that the pictures can end up somewhere online permanently. Even law enforcement cannot take all pictures and messages off the Internet. As these juveniles mature and try to get scholarships, go to college and apply for jobs, the images they regret sending others may still be online somewhere.

What should my child do if he or she receives an image?
Your child should report the image to a parent/guardian, a teacher, or law enforcement. Remember, for your child to not be an active participant in sexting they must not have asked for the image, not have shared the image with others, and they must report it.

Don’t wait for an incident to happen before you talk with your teens. Discuss the consequences of sexting and make sure they know not to put any personal information (address, school, phone number, etc.) online. Anyone close to your child already knows this information.

Accountability Contracts Parents should have complete access to their teen’s phones and computers, and know who they are communicating with and what they are doing. Consider putting in place an “accountability contract” between you and your teen. The Sheriff’s Office has created this example. Another example from Janell Burley Hofmann can be found here.

Device Controls
Each cell phone carrier offers programs for parents to monitor their teen’s cell phones. These plans are affordable – the average cost is $5 / month.

Sprint allows you to restrict internet access, block unwanted incoming text messages, prohibit use of the camera and restrict incoming/outgoing voice calls to pre-approved phone book contacts.

Verizon’s “Family Base” lets parents see a dashboard of their child’s wireless usage as well as set controls on data, voice and text use. The system also can provide a list of the applications installed on your child’s device.

AT&T’s “Smart Controls“ allows parents the opportunity to take control of their technology and presentunwanted calls and texts on your wireless phone, set up online content filters, block TV channels andlimit mobile phone app purchases, set time restrictions, data limits and much more.

T-Mobile “FamilyAllowances” program allows parents to control when the phone works, who the child can call, etc.

Learn more online
CommonSense media has a video called “Rules of the road for parents in a digital age.” Watch it here. Their website contains additional information which you can find here. MTV’s “A Thin Line” campaign is a teen-friendly resource designed to reach kids directly. Visit their site here.

Other helpful websites:
For more information, contact the Crimes Against Children Unit
Email: cacinvestigator@seminolesheriff.org
Phone: (407) 324-1813

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Seminole County Sheriff's Office
100 Eslinger Way
Sanford, Florida 32773
Phone: (407) 665-6650