GREENWOOD, Ind. (WISH) – A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that sexual texts are considered the new normal for young people. Local law enforcement say a growing number are pre-teens.
Greenwood police say they’re getting more calls from the middle school about girls being exploited after sending nude photos. Police say the danger with kids having smart phones is, they’re making adult choices that have adult consequences. But, they don’t have adult reasoning abilities.
It starts with what seems to be a simple text.
“They have that mentality it’s just not going to happen to me. My boyfriend would never do this to me or my girlfriend would never do this to me. They love me. We’ll stay together. He’s the one,” said Kortney Burrello of the Greenwood Police Department.
Message sent, and you know how the rest goes. They break up, but it’s too late.
Burrello is also a community officer for Greenwood Schools. She says sexting is a growing problem, and the age group is getting younger too. Burrello worked with a middle school student after she sent a sexually explicit text.
“They were together. They broke up. He then distributed it. From that school it went to another school. Then that photo got distributed,” explained Burrello.
But the problem of increased sexting isn’t just isolated to Greenwood. The Zionsville Police Department discovered a child pornography website exploiting kids from all over the state and country. Many of the pictures on the site were originally sent to a trusted boyfriend or girlfriend.
“What we try to encourage people to understand is the magnitude of hitting that send button. It’s like the email concept. You always want to proof read your email and put a lot of thought in to it before you hit send. Because, you know that ultimately there’s consequences to that,” said Sgt. Adrian Martin of the Zionsville Police Department.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics study, the more a student texts, the greater the chance they are sexting. The research concludes that students who text more than 100 times or more a day, are more likely to receive or send inappropriate messages. 20 percent of kids with text capable cell phones reported receiving a sext, the study found.
“It is a massive problem from all ages-especially smaller kids who have access to smart phones who don’t understand the magnitude or consequence of their action when taking these photographs or passing on vital information,” said Martin.
At the Boys and Girls Club of Zionsville, they start teaching kids as young as five the importance of being a responsible cyber citizen.
“It’s everywhere; on cell phones, mobile devices. They see their parents doing it and they want to be on there too. So, it’s important for us to let them know early on, that there are risk associated with it and to look out for those risk,” said Glenn Sanford, Director of The Boys and Girls Club.
Through interaction with the kids, computer activities and lessons from instructors, kids are learning about the risks associated with inappropriate use of cell phones and the Internet.
“If you talk to people you don’t know, they might get information about you. You don’t want them to have and they’ll leak it on the Internet,” said Boys and Girls Club member Drew Ege.
Organizers say they have different ways to help keep kids safe.
“We do different kinds of things that help us learn about what to do and what not to do on the Internet, and to help keep us safe,” said Boys and Girls Club member David Peeler.
Burrello has this message to add to their message, “You do not want to do this. You don’t want this information out there. You don’t want your pictures out there on these sites.”
Burrello says sexting is more than just a mistake, it can be criminal. Sending a sexually explicit text could mean child pornography charges. Those convicted would have to register as a sex offender.