The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

December 2, 2013

Teen girls find their 'sexting' photos end up on porn websites

ORLANDO, Fla. — The attention of a boy swayed a girl to make one of the most regrettable decisions of her young life.

She immediately felt sick to her stomach, but the Seminole County middle-schooler pressed “send” on a text message containing a risque picture that circulated like spring fever among the boys at her school.

“He begged and begged for naked photographs until one day I finally gave in to his begging,” the student wrote in testimony used by the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office to educate other girls. “No guy or girl is worth exposing yourself to or ruining your life for.”

The consequences of sexting are more than embarrassment — they can be criminal. And now, those compromising photos are finding their way to pornography websites where they can live forever.

As the holidays approach, mobile devices are sure to be on the wish list of many teens eager for the latest and fastest Internet-enabled technology for sharing pics, tweets, messages, videos and games.

But law enforcement authorities caution parents to couple those gifts with a present for themselves: reconnaissance software to monitor every picture, text and piece of data their kids send electronically.

In recent years, Seminole sheriff’s Investigator Christie Register has identified at least 22 current and former students who found their revealing pictures on sites where users have requested their photos by name.

“Every single one of them were giving these pictures away to somebody,” Register said about the victims. “Once you give it away, that person can do whatever they want.”

There is little law enforcement can do because most of the websites are hosted on overseas servers.

Typically, girls are coerced by male schoolmates or a boyfriend to transmit the photos using smartphone apps such as Snapchat, whose “view once” feature promises to make the image disappear from the recipient’s phone within seconds.

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