Think before you press send.
That’s the message two Indiana State Police officers delivered to Crothersville Junior-
Senior High School students Tuesday during a presentation on sexting and cyberbullying.
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Detective Robert Simpson and Master Trooper Edward Olibo wanted sixth-graders through seniors to understand the consequences of sending explicit photos.
If the wrong person receives the photo, it can be sent to others or even posted online, hurting that person’s future of getting a job, police said.
“Today’s decision can be consequential in the future. Those photos can be permanent,” Olibo said. “Regardless if you delete them or take them down, they are somewhere.”
According to statistics provided by state police, one in five teens has been involved in texting involving nude or explicit photos.
Olibo said the uptick in sexting has become a problem due primarily to social media outlets such as Facebook and Instagram.
Easy access to cellphones with cameras and other electronic devices such as iPads also can lead to kids taking photos of themselves, called selfies, and posting and sending images.
“Years ago, we didn’t have the access we do today,” Olibo said. “Because of that, it’s just so prevalent now.”
Simpson said besides the embarrassment of an explicit photo circulating among others, there’s also a criminal element to it.
If a 15-year-old student has a photo of a naked 13-year-old on a phone, that’s possession of child pornography, he said. If that photo makes its way onto the Internet, the crime is elevated to distribution of child pornography.
“Kids are being charged as criminals and registering as sex offenders,” Simpson said. “This could affect your entire life.”
The officers told students that sexting can be linked to cyberbullying, which involves harassing, intimidating and bullying others through electronic technology.
Simpson said if an explicit photo is sent to the wrong person, bullying can be the result if others find out.
“Sometimes an image gets traded with someone who it wasn’t intended for and that person gets made fun of for it,” Simpson said.
It also can lead to tragedy.
Simpson used an 18-year-old Ohio woman as an example. She was taunted after an explicit photo of herself, which was intended for her boyfriend, was leaked to others. The harassment drove her to commit suicide in 2008.
Simpson also encouraged students to avoid dating pressures to send graphic pictures to each other, even if a significant other says, “It’s for love.”
“This is about protection of yourself and of your body,” he said. “It isn’t something you share with somebody at a young age.”
Assistant principal Robert Adams also touched on the issue of bullying, which can be anything from teasing to physically hurting someone.
Crothersville Community Schools, like many schools, has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to bullying. Adams said that, with a first offense, a student can be punished with three days of suspension. If the bullying persists, it can lead to expulsion.
Adams told students that, if they are having trouble with a bully, tell a trusted adult.
“Unless someone intervenes, bullying will likely continue,” he said.
He also said parents should talk to their kids, because often they are not be aware that it’s going on.
Besides reporting bullying to a teacher or the principal, a form can be filled out online on the school’s website.
“We try to make it available for people to let us know if it’s going on,” Adams said.
After the presentation, sixth-graders Timothy Hodge and Derek Howard said they’ve been on both ends of bullying.
“It’s hard not to be a bully when you have younger brothers,” Timothy joked.
But the two said they’ve both stopped their bullying behavior, and Tuesday’s presentation offered them advice on what to do in difficult situations.
“If I see somebody I’m with getting bullied, I’ll stand up for them,” Derek said. “If I’m getting bullied, I’m going to just ignore them.”
Olibo said that’s exactly what he wants to hear from kids — that they try to make an informed decision before they act.
“If they’re informed, they’ll revert back to what we’ve given them today,” Olibo said.
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Nearly 43 percent of kids have been bullied online.
90 percent of teens who have seen social media bullying say they have ignored it.
Only one in 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of the abuse.
Girls are about twice as likely as boys to be victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying.
Bullying victims are two to nine times more likely to consider committing suicide.
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“Today’s decision can be consequential in the future. Those photos can be permanent. Regardless if you delete them or take them down, they are somewhere.”
Master Trooper Edward Olibo, on the danger of sexting