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Safe Harbor works to discourage ‘sexting’

By ANGIE LONG
The Lowndes Signal

Sexting. It’s a social phenomenon that can have serious consequences.

“Sexting” is part of the new cyber vocabulary, and refers to using a cell phone to send sexually suggestive texts or e-mails with nude or nearly nude photos.

Safe Harbor, the Children’s Advocacy Center of Butler, Crenshaw and Lowndes counties, is teaming with the Alabama Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers, Inc. and the Verizon Foundation to launch a statewide campaign to bring awareness to “ sexting” and promote responsible cell phone usage.

“Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common problem among teenagers in particular. A girl thinks it will be cool to send a topless photo of herself to her boyfriend,” says Kathy Smith, director of Safe Harbor.

“Then, she and the boyfriend break up. And he decides to send that photo to other friends. It ends up on the Internet, causing a lot of embarrassment and grief.”

And it’s not just young people who make the mistake of using their cell phones in inappropriate ways. No matter what the age, it’s a disastrous choice, because sexting is not only inappropriate. It’s also illegal.

“People need to understand sending these photos or messages over their phones is classified as pornography. It is actually a crime,” said Smyth. “ Pressing that ‘send’ button can rob a person of privacy and innocence.”

Children’s advocacy centers like Safe Harbor, which strive to create an abuse-free society for the state’s children, work cases on a regular basis involving inappropriate messages and photos sent by cell phone.

“The new billboard campaign really says it well, with slogans like ‘Not just for your eyes only,’ and ‘Don’t let a pic come back to haunt you,’” said Smyth. “It also reminds parents to be aware of who their children are communicating with.”

For more information on the anti-sexting campaign, visit www.alabamaacacs.org.