Stopping sexting before it starts

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Teen sexting is a problem that only appears to be getting worse. Recently, there was a sexting investigation at Susquenita High School in Perry County.

A school district in Cumberland County is now taking steps to stop the problem before it starts. Silver Spring Township police officer Wes Schmidt is a school resource officer for the Cumberland Valley School District. He travels around the district teaching kids why sexting is bad.

“I’m proactive instead of reactive,” Schmidt said. “I want to reach out and get to them early and teach them early to prevent mistakes.”

Schmidt talks to students at the middle schools and high school, but he prefers to start at the elementary level. With 10 and 11 year-olds, he warns about the dangers of sexting without ever saying the word.

“We don’t want to take any pictures of our private parts or anybody else’s. In addition, we don’t want to share them either,” he told fifth-grade students at Green Ridge Elementary.

Schmidt advises the kids to think before they text, tweet or post. In Pennsylvania, it is illegal for anyone 13 or older to text or share nude or semi-nude pictures.

The kids seem to be getting the message loud and clear.

“If you take a picture of a private part or somebody else’s and you send them out, that’s inappropriate,” 10-year-old Emma Leo said.

“You’re not supposed to post stuff that you don’t want others to see,” 11-year-old Roman Thompson said.

Schmidt also reminds students that texting inappropriate pictures can cause permanent damage that never goes away.

“That photo can resurface over and over and over again and it will haunt them later in life,” he said.

Parents also need to be proactive and watch what their kids are doing on their phones and on social media. Parents should look out for apps that look real but are fake apps for sexting.

Also, stay on top of code lingo.  For instance, WTTP means want to trade pictures.

Some warning signs that your child might be sexting; they spend a lot of time on the phone, especially at night; gets calls or texts from strangers; or receives mail, gifts or packages from someone they don’t know.

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