In 2012, I was approached by the 1st Judicial District in Jefferson County Colorado to create a sexting class for adolescents as an alternative to legal consequences. At the time, the charge for sexting was a Class 3 Felony and the adolescents could be required to register on the Sex Offender Registry. The way the law was written, even the act of taking a picture of themselves and having it in their possession (on their phone) was illegal. The program would be the first of its kind in the state, setting a precedent of successful methods to address sexting among our youth.
In a 2012 study, research indicated 25% of teenagers sext*. A 2017 study identified that 39% of teenagers have sent a sext message**. This significant increase in five years is an alarming trend among our youth. Even more concerning is the age of onset for sexting; I’ve had to conduct a modified curriculum, on more than one occasion, for children as young as 10 years old. Being an adolescent with technology always at your finger-tips varies significantly from our own adolescent experiences.
Aside from the legal consequences there are socioemotional costs associated with these cases, from no no-ticeable negative impact to being bullied and ostracized by classmates. This frequently triggers emotional up-heaval. In a considerable amount of cases incites self-harming behaviors, and in the most extreme cases sui-cide attempts. Our youth learn the hard way that they have no control over who sees the pictures once they leave their possession.
Over 200 adolescents have completed my curriculum both individually and in the group setting. They attend both private and public schools, primarily in middle and high school, and are from every socioeconomic class. Parents have told me, “this type of thing does not happen in our [private] school.” I am here to say, “ Yes, It does!” Sexting impacts all of our youth.
This project is my passion. The mission of the classes is CARE: Choose to stop Abuse. Respect yourself and others. Show Empathy – addressing, yet surpassing sexting behaviors. The curriculum is skill-based incorpo-rating philosophies of Emotional Intelligence and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and has evolved to address observed trends over the years. The skills taught assist the participants in being successful in all aspects of their lives – navigating their youth and beyond.
To date, 99% of participants after completing the course, never came to the attention of the DA’s office for recommitting this offense. Furthermore, the most frequent comment I hear at the end of the curriculum is: “I think all teens should take this class.”
After word spread about the success rates of this program various judicial districts have approached me for the curriculum and have structured programs off this model. Area service providers have consistently asked for access to this curriculum. This curriculum is now available to you. You can be the solution in your community to this wide spread problem.
*Teen sexting and its association with sexual behaviors. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2012 Sep; 166(9): 828–833. doi: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2012.835
** Statistic Brain. (2017). Sexting Statistics. [online] Available at: https://www.statisticbrain.com/sexting-statistics/ [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].