Cop Corner

By Officer Ken McNeill
Pleasanton Police Department

Here’s a word problem for you, like in math class. Well, sort of. I mean, I’ve never actually been great at math. Maybe that’s why I’m a cop and not a quantum physics professor at Stanford. Anyway, here’s the scenario: Student A sends a sexually suggestive text message to Student B. In turn, Student B, who, by the way, likes Student A and the attention she is getting, sends a topless photo of herself back to Student A. Student A receives the photo and forwards it to all his buddies. He also gives them a high five when he sees them. Unfortunately for Student A and Student B, the text message and photo are discovered by the vice principal.

Now, the question to you is “What are the consequences?” How about we make it multiple choice.

A. They get suspended or expelled from school.

B. They may have to explain what happened to colleges to which they apply as many request disciplinary records along with transcripts.

C. Student A and Student B are charged with the felony crime of sending sexually explicit photos involving someone under 18 years old (child pornography) and each will have to register for the rest of their lives as sex offenders.

D. Student B is humiliated and regrets sending the photo for the rest of her life because once you send your picture out to “cyberspace,” you can’t take it back.

E. All of the above could happen.

The answer, of course, is, “All of the Above.” The scenario is an example of what has become known as “sexting” and is gaining popularity among teenagers. Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photos electronically, frequently between cell phones.

Kids today are awash in sexual influences. In this ubiquitous cell phone era, instant messages and photos can be kept out of sight of parents and other adults. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy says that 22 percent of teenage girls and 18 percent of teenage boys have taken nude or semi-nude photos of themselves and sent them to someone or posted them online.

The problem is that those who sext do not realize the severity of the consequences. Not the least of which is that even if the photos you send are not discovered by parents or a school administrator, they could come back to haunt you. There are some sick people out there who troll the Internet everyday looking for such images.

Sexting can also be malicious. For example, sharing an unflattering picture of someone taken in a locker room. This type of behavior is not funny. It’s called bullying and can cause immeasurable suffering to the victim. Once sent, photos can be used by countless others to harass, intimidate or embarrass victims online or via cell phone.

The bottom line is that sexting is wrong. Don’t send or post sexually explicit text messages. Don’t send naked pictures of yourself. Have a little self esteem. Think forward and consider the consequences of your actions.

NOTE TO PARENTS: Check your teen’s cell phone. It’s OK. As the parent, you are entitled to know what your child is doing. If your child objects, you should wonder why. Scroll through their sent/received messages. Look through their saved photos. Do it regularly and let your teen know you intend to keep doing it.

You can contact Officer Ken McNeill at 931-5233 or kmcneill@ci.pleasanton.ca.us