Storm Lake Middle School students were educated this week on the dangers of sexting. Storm Lake Police Detective Bre Nieland, along with Juvenile Court Officer Audra O’neill stopped by the school to discuss the rise of soliciting for sexually-explicit photos.
In a recent national survey, it was determined that 40% of children had been exposed to sexually-explicit messages by the age of 14. Detective Nieland explained that it is fine to send explicit photos between two consenting individuals that are dating, as long as they’re over the age of 18, as there are no repercussions for taking the pictures yourself.
Court Officer O’neill stressed the importance of thinking twice about your decision before pressing send, as once it reaches the internet, it will live out there forever, despite it potentially being deleted. She said the photos or messages can surface years later, costing people both their jobs and relationships.
O’neill also notes that photos taken of an exposed student in a restroom, locker room, or shower is considered child pornography, highlighting that it’s not only against the law but can also damage a person emotionally. She describes that the result of having these pictures shared online sometimes leads to suicide.
Both Nieland and O’neill reiterate to be careful when interacting with individuals online that you might not know personally and to take precautions when considering sending sexually-explicit content to anyone. Detective Nieland says that a student should go immediately to a parent or teacher, who should then contact law enforcement, if they are a victim of receiving pornographic content, or have been asked to send such content.