Beachwood Schools Increase Efforts to Prevent Sexting

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Beachwood Schools Increase Efforts to Prevent Sexting

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The prevalence of “sexting,” the act of sending inappropriate messages or nude pictures, has increased significantly in recent years. Well-publicized incidents in area schools involving the sharing of inappropriate content have prompted parental concern.

Both BHS and BMS have increased efforts to prevent “sexting” and to educate students about this problem.

“We have specifically included information on the dangers of sexting into presentations regarding bullying and dating violence,” Principal Edward Klein said.

Studies have provided varying conclusions regarding the number of students that admit to sending, receiving and/or asking for nude images.

According to the FBI’s website, a 2010 study from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy showed that 22% of girls and 18% of boys, for a total of 20% of teenagers, have sent or posted nude or seminude images online.

However, a survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project concluded that nearly one sixth of teenagers have received sexts, and a 2012 study published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine found that one-fourth of students admitted to sending or receiving them.

These studies suggest that sexting is very prevalent in today’s youth, and that it has a heavy effect on students. However, because of these varying results, it is hard to figure out exactly how common it is.

Middle school guidance counselor Douglas Winston told the Beachcomber that the school has implemented procedures to give younger students a better understanding about the way they use technology.

“This year, I even taught a lesson for seventh graders on sexting. I actually went over the laws and the rules, and showed them educational videos and testimonies from other kids in other schools that went through this,” Winston said.

The act of sending any inappropriate content, is prohibited by the BHS student handbook.

“A student shall not use or attempt to use a personal or district-provided computer, network, or server to display, solicit, offer, obtain, possess, send or receive inappropriate material,” the handbook states.

“It is the job of school administration to investigate any illegal acts that may contain any inappropriate images. Students could possibly face suspension, or even expulsion. Working in conjunction with local authority helps to ensure the safety of our students and the community,” Winston wrote in an email.

Beyond that, consequences for sexting extend past the school administration and directly to the police.

Any involvement in a sexting incident could have strong legal consequences.

According to the United States Department of Justice website, teens who take, receive or distribute “nudes” can be charged with child pornography. The person who takes the picture can be charged with its production and anyone who receives “nudes” can be charged with possession.

The Citizen’s Guide to U.S. Federal Law on Child Pornography states that it is illegal to even ask a minor to engage in this activity.

“As long as the image circulates, anyone with it may face charges,” the website explains.

In addition to the legal repercussions, sending a “sext” can be harmful to a teenager’s reputation and social life.

Winston believes that it is not possible for schools to avoid this phenomenon regardless of what actions they take to educate students about their reputations online.

Freshman Mikayla Carno-Harf agrees. She thinks most BHS students have been told plenty of times about the dangers of sending inappropriate content; however, some do it anyway.

“Most people are educated enough to know what not to do. [Education] doesn’t stop people at all. Because if they want to do it … nothing is really going to stop them,” Carno-Harf said.

“I think [teaching] it in middle school is definitely good, but by high school, students know what not to do, and if they do those things, they are doing them consciously, not being naive,” she added.

BHS Assistant Principal Ryan Patti believes that this situation can be avoided through monitoring of cell-phones and computers.

“We have not had any issues that were brought to anyone’s attention yet this year at our school,” Patti said. “We’re lucky enough to have parents who are being very adamant about watching what their children are doing on their phones… I feel like they’re learning a lot by seeing what’s going on at other schools and they’re applying it to the way they teach their kids.”

In addition, Patti informed the Beachcomber that school-issued Chromebooks can be monitored by school authorities.

“We have people who, if need be, can go on a student’s account and monitor if he or she is found to be doing something inappropriate, whether it be during school hours or at home because they’re still school-issued and school-owned computers,” Patti said.

Many students at BHS, including Carno-Harf, have admitted to having heard of instances when this has happened here, and multiple other students reported having seen images or received them directly from the source.

Because of the lack of specific evidence presented to school authorities on sexting at Beachwood, it is unclear how often it happens.

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