On The Air
Mar 2, 2010
On Valentine’s Day, MTV premiered “Sexting in America: When Privates Go Public.” The special addresses the dangers associated with ‘sexting’ and the serious repercussions for people who send and receive inappropriate images of peers on their mobile phones and other devices. It is part of “A THIN LINE,” MTV’s multi-year initiative to empower America’s youth to identify, respond to, and stop the spread of digital abuse.
The half-hour special examines how sexting is affecting youth culture and relationships, the stakes involved – from legal to emotional – and how this trend is becoming a new frontier for teen dating abuse. Viewers meet Ally – the “good girl” in her high school who, at age 16, sent a nude photo to an ex-boyfriend after being pressured. Her reputation was destroyed overnight when the photo spread across the school and she became the target of constant harassment.
It also examines the laws around sexting, and tells the story of Phillip, who is fighting his status as a registered sex offender. After a heated argument with his girlfriend, Phillip forwarded nude photos of her to everyone in her address book. Because she was under 18, he was charged with child pornography and is slated to remain on the sex offender registry until he is 43 years old.
Internet privacy and security lawyer Parry Aftab recommends that teens who receive a sext should delete it immediately and keep in mind that once a photo has been taken on a phone, it never goes away. “It could be in a million places, and you never know who got a copy,” Aftab says in the program. “If you take it on your phone and texted it, a copy exists with your cell phone carrier and on [the recipient’s] phone. Maybe he e-mailed it to himself, so now it’s on his computer, and if he put it on an SD card and used it on his Xbox, now it’s there also. They’re also sometimes sold on the digital black market for use on underground Web sites where real child predators love to look at them.”
A recent study released by MTV and the Associated Press found that three in 10 young people have sent or received nude sext messages, with more than 60 percent of those who sent a nude photo reporting that they were pressured to do so at least once. More than three in four young people say that digital abuse is a serious problem for people their age. However, few consider the more serious consequences and risks of their behavior, with only half (51 percent) believing that their digital actions could come back to haunt them, and only one in four considering that these actions could have legal consequences.