28% of teens trade nude photos
PORTLAND, Ore.— More teens are sexting and exchanging nude photos than many parents may realize. In today’s digital world, those photos can quickly travel to websites and social media platforms.
The trend doesn’t just jeopardize the privacy of teens, but can also lead to criminal charges.
“I think most teenagers, especially in high school, are engaging in that type of activity,” said 18-year old Ruby Gonzales of Portland.
The Beaverton Police Department said typically, one of its six school resources officers is always working a case involving the exchange of nude or sexually explicit photos.
“It’s all age ranges -- from middle school all the way through high school,” said school resource officer Dan Cotton.
Twenty-eight percent of teenagers reported sending naked photos via text message, according to a 2014 study from Drexel University.
“I would be willing to bet that any child past the seventh grade knows personally someone who has engaged in this type of behavior,” explained Officer Cotton.
Images spread online
Once online, compromising images can easily spread from one website to another.
“It’s not like there’s a master of the Internet or King of the Internet,” explained Vaughn. “There’s not one place that you can go to have these images removed.”
With the help of Beaverton police, KGW found an anonymous website where users trade nude photos of former classmates. We are not revealing the website to protect potential victims.
Beaverton police reviewed the site and found the online forum included the names of 13 Oregon high schools and all major colleges in the state. Users on the website request and trade nude or revealing photos of what appears to be former students, police explained.
Why do teens sext?
Teenagers send nude photos for a variety of reasons. Sexting may be part of a developing relationship. Revealing photos might be sent because of peer pressure, to show off or even as a joke.
Sending compromising photos may be problematic enough, but there are more complex challenges when the photos are shared.
“Somebody posts it, somebody links to that, sends it in an email -- they can spread instantaneously,” warns attorney Ashley Vaughn of Dumas Law Group.
Vaughn, who has worked with victims of cybercrimes, said they often have a difficult time erasing those images once they’ve been shared on social media or posted online.
“Your deepest, most intimate moments are being viewed by hundreds, perhaps thousands of people -- strangers all over the world -- and you don’t know who these people are,” said Vaughn.
“The consequences can range from simple loss of trust from parents, embarrassment, public shaming, as well as it can lead to criminal charges,” explained Officer Cotton.
In Oregon, it is illegal to take, possess or share photos depicting sexually explicit conduct involving any child under the age of 18. Any person doing so could be charged with child pornography.
Additionally, anyone who shares a nude photo of the sexual body parts of anyone under 18 can be criminally prosecuted for harassment and invasion of privacy.
For example, it is illegal for a high school student to text images of his nude 16-year old girlfriend to classmates. Additionally, if that image showed sexual conduct, and not just naked body parts, he could be prosecuted for child pornography distribution under both state and federal law.
In May, three Oregon teenagers were charged in connection with thousands of nude photos and videos of female North Eugene High School students.
Naked images of 15 to 20 female students were exchanged “via email, Dropbox, Snapchat, KIK and Facebook Messenger,” explained Eugene Police detective Chris Mackey in a probable cause affidavit.
What can parents do?
“Past generations didn’t have the technology that teenagers have today,” said 17-year-old Celina Tebor of Portland.
She encouraged parents to learn about today’s technology and social media.
“Definitely be proactive, because once something has already happened, it is really tough to take a step back and try to make everything go back to the way it was,” explained Tebor.
Counselors say it is important to talk to your children about the pressures to send revealing photos. Remind them, it is okay to say no.
Parents should also be very clear about the potential consequences. Once a photo is sent, a teenager has no control over who sees it or shares it.
“I feel like every single kid that has a Snapchat or a phone is going to do it anyway,” said 18-year-old Gonzales. “I don’t think you can stop it but I think parents can advise their kids to be safe and be smart about it.”
If someone posts a nude photo of you online, investigators say you should take a screen shot, collect as much information about the website as possible and report it to police.
Victims can also contact Google to have the listing removed from searches. Google won’t erase the photo, but the listing will no longer appear in searches under your name.
If you created the photo, such as a selfie, you have the intellectual property rights. You can get a copyright for the image and then send a letter to the website demanding your nude image be removed.
“I think it is a sign of the times,” said Officer Cotton. “And sadly, I don’t think it is going anywhere.”