MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - For parents, talking to teens about sexting can be uncomfortable, but authorities who have handled teen sexting investigations in Upper Michigan want families to know that it’s easier to have the conversation before an explicit picture ends up in unwanted hands.
Potential criminal penalties from teen sexting cases…
“Your circle of friends never really would tell you the bad thing about it…”
Aren’t commonly discussed among friends, according to these Marquette Senior High School seniors.
“If you did talk to them about they'd just say, 'Oh, whatever. You do you.' But then there are all the legal issues that go along with it that they don't know and so they don't talk about it and so that needs to come from an outside source,” said Eli Pickard, MSHS senior and student council president.
“Once the image is created in a digital format, you can plan on it being there forever, or potentially being there forever, and that's the really frightening thing if you think about it,” said Marquette County Prosecuting Attorney, Matt Wiese.
Wiese said as explicit pictures are shared, teens could be charged and face prison time, fines and sex offender status.
“I think parents - and I have teenage children myself - they need to talk to their children about this,” Wiese said. “I do that and it's embarrassing and awkward and they don't want to talk about it, but you need to talk about it because it's happening in our community."
Wiese said any conversations families have about sexting should also include a general talk about the amount of times teens spend on their phones.
“Like anything else, things in moderation,” Wiese said. “Put the phone down. Talk to people. Talk to your children. I think that's the biggest thing we can do.”
It hasn’t happened yet in Marquette County, but these students said teens may get the message if someone is prosecuted.
“I think if there was a serious legal case that caused someone to get on the sex offender list or have a serious court case or anything like that,” said Laura Beckman, MSHS senior and student council vice president.
Pickard says a good majority of teens he knows don’t do it.
“I mean, there are some people that do, but I feel like a lot don’t,” Pickard said.
And Wiese said that number could increase if parents are proactive.
Child sex crime investigators said parents should also talk to their kids about what to do if they’re pressured to send an inappropriate picture, and what to do if they receive one.