Sexting: Case of 14-Year-Old Girl Provides Cautionary Tale to Share With Teens
Filed under: In The News
"Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song, a medley of extemporanea. And love is a thing that can never go wrong ... and I am Marie of Romania." -- Dorothy Parker
Love is forever when you're a teenager. And the one you love would never, ever hurt you.
Margarite believed that. You might want to share her tale with your teenager.
As told by The New York Times, the 14-year-old Washington state resident took a full frontal nude photo of herself and sent it by cellphone to her boyfriend, Isaiah. It was supposed to be private, just between the two of them.
Any adults in the audience not know where this is heading?
That's right. Not only did Margarite and Isaiah break up, but Isaiah promptly betrayed Margarite's trust by forwarding the naked photo to another eighth-grade girl who -- guess what? -- spread it all over hell and gone. And just to make sure Margarite stays hip-deep in therapy bills, the photo was stamped, "Ho Alert!"
Recipients were urged to spread the photo even further into the known universe. And, being kids with the intellectual capacity (not to mention emotional sensitivity) of canned cling peaches, they obliged.
Of course, spreading naked pictures of 14-year-old girls is a no-no. The Times reports three kids soon found themselves in handcuffs while adults in Washington state and beyond found themselves wondering what can be done about this bizarre phenomenon of sending sexually explicit photos, videos or text messages between cellphones.
In a word: "sexting."
It's a hard problem to tackle. As The Times points out, kids have pitifully easy access to all sorts of technology and are growing up in the wake of the sexual revolution where you can't pass a magazine stand without seeing all-but-naked women displayed as pieces of meat for hungry wolves.
Besides, until things go horribly wrong, teens think sexting is cool.
"Having a naked picture of your significant other on your cellphone is an advertisement that you're sexually active to a degree that gives you status," Rick Peters, a senior deputy prosecuting attorney for Thurston County in Washington state, tells the newspaper. "It's an electronic hickey."
Naturally, things have an uncanny knack for going horribly wrong.
Again, take Margarite.
The Times reports she was going through a dark period in 2009. Among a lot of other things, she lost a good friend. Well, maybe the friend wasn't all that good. This was the same girl who would later spread the naked photo of Margarite.
Margarite's school principal confiscated cellphones and spent hours speaking with parents frantic about their children being arrested.
Only three students ended up being taken into custody. Peters decided against charging Margarite herself, but charged three other students with dissemination of child pornography, a Class C felony. He chose to prosecute those kids, he tells The Times, because they were primarily responsible for the photo going viral.
One of them was Isaiah.
Peters tells The Times if the photo never made it beyond Margarite and Isaiah, he would have called the parents but not pressed any charges. Case closed.
"The idea of forwarding that picture was bad enough," he tells The Times. "But the text elevated it to something far more serious. It was mean-girl drama, an all-out attempt to destroy someone without thinking about the implications."
So, after school, police read Isaiah his rights, cuffed his hands behind his back and led him and Margarite's former friend out of their middle school. They had just won a night in juvie along with a 13-year-old girl who also helped spread the photo.
"I didn't know it was against the law," Isaiah tells The Times.
It's not -- between consenting adults. Kids, however, are another matter.
But do they get that message, The Times asks, when actress Megan Fox is shown in a Motorola commercial taking a picture of herself with a cellphone while she's in the tub and cooing, "I wonder what would happen if I were to send this out?"
The three defendants got off light. Peters tells The Times he never wanted to punish them, just scare the hell out of them. They ended up doing community service -- creating public service material on the dangers of sexting.
As for Margarite, she has become a walking cautionary tale for parents to share with their kids. The Times asked her what would she would tell other teens.
"I guess if they are about to send a picture, and they have a feeling, like, they're not sure they should, then don't do it at all," she tells The Times. "I mean, what are you thinking? It's freaking stupid!"
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.