The scholarly world is seriously debating the critical need for some legal statutes or legislation helping to establish a differentiation between sexual images and contents usually created and shared by teenagers and young adults through instant messages and what is known today as cyber porn, a new method developed by pedophiles using the internet as a means to sexually harass and exploit children. This article mainly based on secondary analyses, includes empirical research conducted on 13 police officers, 20 teenagers, and 20 parents of teenagers. It reveals the severity of the situation and emphasizes the urgency for parents' immediate and appropriate attention and actions on child monitoring.
The United States is seemingly flooded by "a crime wave of child pornography offenses perpetuated by middle and highschoolers". Since the year of 2008, many minors have been charged under pornographic laws for taking sexually explicit images of themselves or others and transmitting them to other minors by electronic devices or posting them on the internet. This social phenomenon of creating and transmitting sexually explicit photographs via cell phones, computers, web cameras and/or social media sites by minors is called, "sexting, a naughty cousin of 'texting.' " This common occurrence of sexting-sending, receiving or forwarding sexually suggestive or explicit images or messages via internet among the teenage and young adult generation has become epidemic.
One study reports youth between ages of 13-17 exchange 75 billion text messages including sext messages each month. Another study shows 1 in 5 teens, ages 13-19, have either sent or received a semi-nude or nude picture and 15 % of senders and recipients have met online only. Almost 40 % of young people reported sending and 50 % reported transmitting sexually suggestive or explicit images or messages without anticipating emotional and/or legal ramifications. Similarly, a Strassberg & McKinnon study found that 24 % of students who had sent a sexual image were unaware of the legal risks while 35 % of the students were aware of legal consequences and decided to sext anyway. A study of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy: Sex and Tech, further revealed that many teens do, in fact, understand the risk of proliferation of their sexually suggestive postings, but they still do it because they believe exchanging sexually suggestive content increases their chances of dating and hook-ups with others.
In the past, boys and girls expressed sexual attraction by passing written or verbal comments whenever and wherever secret opportunities arose to share feelings. Now, hidden personal expressions have become more explicit and are communicated at will via wire connections. The advancement of technology has created a virtual space for sexuality to be expressed and performed; it has enabled new forms of social interaction among today's tech savvy generation. As in traditional behavior, today's youth understand sex communications and want to hide them as private communications. They are neither ready nor willing to acknowledge the reality that once a post goes on internet, it can quickly spread beyond the person to whom it was intended. Anyone can view an image for an indefinite time once it is on the internet and instead of remaining private it can become a vicious prank resulting in ostracism, psychological stress, and even serious legal ramifications. In addition, such material may be seized by perpetrators for criminal use.
According to psychologists, children who send and receive sexually suggestive or explicit images are more likely to develop symptoms of depression, disillusionment and betrayal when their private information is posted publicly. Studies are showing horrors caused by sexting acts such as cyber-stalking, cyber-bullying or cyber-harassment. This practice can lead to very serious effects such as suicidal thoughts, or even to suicide, especially when a photo goes viral without the sender's consent.
In addition to psychological and social connotations, the act of sexting violates the criminal statute due to the definition found in the federal child pornography statutes. The current federal child pornography statutes make no distinction between pornography created by minors for one another and the deeply exploitative materials created from actual rape and molestation of children. Consequently, several incidents of arrest have made recent headlines as jurisdictions have punished sexting incidents with charges of dissemination and possession of child pornography by using pornographic laws in the absence of laws to handle this new type of sexting criminality.
The use of child pornography laws to deal severely with sexting not only leads to an unlimited rise of prosecution, but also to social uproar. Parents' rights groups, scholars and academia question the use of laws originally designed to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation as a vehicle to suppress and punish their sexual expressions. It can be debated that, no doubt, sexting behavior is not appropriate for socio-legal exemption, but handling these behaviors by applying pornographic laws, which originated prior to digital age/virtual reality to deal with serious sex offenders, is inappropriate and unfair to the young tech savvy culture.
Given the number of youths participating in sexting, legal measures are not sufficient to control the rising phenomenon of sexting. As a society, some role can be placed upon the cell phone, public websites and media agencies to apply strict rules and regulations and to have more vigilant mechanisms to restrict and control free flow of nudity. However, more logically parents, teachers and educational institutions need to take a lead role in managing this problem. Those with influence should provide young people with proper awareness, monitoring supervision and guidance for responsible and beneficial use of technology to prevent potential lifetime nightmares. Keylogger spy software, as an effective solution to this problem, is more and more heard by parents and suggested by experts. Keylogger, AKA keystroke logger or keyboard logger computer programs, can secrect monitor and record every keystrokes typed on a computer keyboard. Such data may include chats, IMs, emails, posts and other information your children exchange on your computer, laptop or tablet. Keylogger spy software also takes screenshot snapshots of the electronic device. It allows you view the images, photos and videos your children share online. Unmonitored internet use is a place of danger for every under-age child. Sexting is a new problem. On one hand, it is part of the life style of the young tech savvy generation. On the other, it is looming with possibilities of serious crimes and legal ramifications. Spying solutions are required and society must adapt to the rapidly changing nature of technology and culture.