Editor’s Note: The article below appeared in the newspaper of Port Angeles High School in Washington state. It is a good statement of the dangers facing teenagers who do “normal” teenage things and end up as “sex offenders”.

Should you be a Registered Sex Offender?
Tuesday, November 29, 2011 By Autumn Ruddick

Not all PAHS High School students have heard of students using their cellular devices to send inappropriate images to one another. Most students would never think of using their cell phone to send nude pictures of themselves to another person. However, with evolving technology around every corner, it’s not surprising to see teens find ways to use their cell phones to try to spice up their relationships or encourage a potential hook-up, but what many don’t know is that these ‘fun’ little snapshots could cause major problems in your future. Taking racy photos of yourself and sending them to other students or individuals may seem innocent and cute in the short-term, but look down the road, and you could have a huge problem on your hands.

What many students don’t know is that by taking a ‘sexy’ cell phone snapshot, they could be risking a lot more than simple public humiliation by half the school seeing a nude picture of them circulating around campus. Being caught with racy photos of a minor on any device could get you a charge of possession of child pornography, and get you a spot on the SEX OFFENDERS REGISTRY. That’s right—your innocent picture could end up next to a 30-year-old rapist in the area, even if you are a minor yourself. Those who take pictures are just as liable. Besides the possible charge of distributing child pornography, the discovery of nude photos of someone can seriously tarnish their reputation. Once you commit something such as a electronic image to the airwaves it becomes very permanent and virtually impossible to remove the digital imprint you have so naively created. If you are feeling a little frisky, challenge yourself to stop and think of the consequences, put down your cell phone, and go do your history homework instead.

Think you could never get in trouble? Think again. Take for instance the two teens charged with possession of child pornography in January 2010 after being caught with explicit photos in Lacey, Washington. The students, aged 13 and 14, got a hold of a nude photo of another student, and leaked it to dozens of other students across Thurston County. The photo was forwarded to students in four different middle schools. If the students are convicted, they could be forced to register as sex offenders. Although it may seem far-fetched, this is not an isolated incident. Six high school students faced child pornography charges in Greensburg, Pennsylvania in January 2009, and none of the students were even 16 years old. Whether you are in middle school or high school, this could happen to you if you don’t think twice before hitting ‘send.’

Any time you send anything risky, whether is be sexually explicit or not, you’re risking the possibility of your ‘private’ message going viral across your school, town, or the Internet. Girls, is this picture you are about to send something your own father would want published and distributed of his little girl? Boys, if your think having ‘the talk’ with your mom was awkward, are you really going to enjoy talking about her seeing a picture of your unmentionables that got forwarded across town or visiting you in juvenile detention center for possession of pornography?

The potential consequences don’t stop at law-enforcement and parental units. Imagine going to college, earning a degree and working hard for years to land an interview for your dream job, only to be turned down when a Google-search of your name pulls up nude pictures you took in high school. Public relations are a huge part of business nowadays—even if your Facebook profile doesn’t live up to a company’s standards, your chances of being hired are considerably cut-down when you distribute lewd pictures of yourself.

The moral of the story is this—Ladies; you are worth more than a grainy topless shot in your bathroom mirror. Guys, really, if you have any kind of Internet connection known to man-kind, is it worth a potential possession-of-child-pornography to push for a dirty picture; have some respect for girls who might be the future mothers of your own children some day? Distributing inappropriate pictures of yourself via your cellular device can cause more problems than it’s worth, so think twice before you click that send button!

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