A few weeks ago, I was asked by a church to talk to their members about how to keep kids safe online. They wanted to know specifically about sexting and online social networks like Facebook and Twitter. I was nervous because that’s a lot of information to cover in an hour. But the experience was amazing and over the next few days, I’m going to post some highlights of my talk. Today, we’ll focus on sexting.
Texting is a cool name for SMS or short message service on your cell phone. Instead of calling someone, you can send them a text message through your cell phone. Texting is so popular, it outnumbers voice calls three to one. It makes sense, though. Sometimes, it’s just easier sending someone a text rather than calling them and talking to them personally. But with its popularity, comes a complicated issue attached to it – sexting. Sexting is texting on your cell phone with a twist. Since you can send a photo in your text message, sexting is sending sexually suggestive, explicit or nude photos in a text. It can also mean talking in a sexually suggestive manner via your cell phone. What makes this issue so sticky is that teens and adults are getting caught sexting, leading to disastrous results.
One concerned parent in the church was worried her child might send or receive sext messages. So, what do I tell a parent who is worried about their child sexting? I said, don’t worry. That’s right! I said not to worry. Why? Because most likely, the parents are footing the bill for the child’s cell phone. And since that’s usually the case, a parent can call their cell phone carrier and get a list of all the texts sent from and received to that cell phone. Just because a text is deleted doesn’t mean it’s gone. It may be gone from the phone, but the cell phone carrier keeps the information much longer. When I said that, I could hear an audible sigh of relief throughout the room.
But kids aren’t the only ones who have to worry. Adults need to be careful about sexting, too. Just because adults are responsible for their cell phone accounts doesn’t mean they can do what they want and no one will know. We see in the news every single day, how sexting has broken up marriages, ruined homes and relationships in the lives of high profile individuals. And be forewarned because the American Bar Association began offering seminars this fall for attorneys on how to use electronic evidence — text messages, browsing history and social networks — in proving a case (martial and otherwise). So, your text and/or sext messages can be used to incriminate you.
Now, my job is not to tell you whether sexting is right or wrong. But I would be remiss if I didn’t let you know what can happen if you choose to go down that road. So please, text wisely.