Barrington meeting addresses consequences of 'sexting'

After some students at a suburban school were caught sexting, parents are learning how to recognize the warning signs and how to handle it if they're child is caught up in it.
April 17, 2014 6:02:21 AM PDT
After some students at a north suburban school were caught sexting, parents are learning how to recognize the warning signs and how to handle it if their child is caught up in it.

A recent University of Illinois study says 30-percent of teens in the U.S. have sent or received sexually-explicit messages or photos. It's a nationwide problem that in this community, could have criminal consequences.

It was a night of honest talk directed at parents of school-age children. The topic was sexting, and why parents are often the last to know.

"The times that we live in, they're changing. Everything is so instant and fast, and I think the whole world of reality has changed for our kids," said Jane Tangney, parent of middle school student.

The meeting was held in the carousel room at Sanfilippo Estate, a fairy tale-like setting for a very real, very adult topic.

Odette Fay brought her two high school age daughters.

"The reality is when I was in high school, when I was in junior high, I knew nothing about the kind of stuff they know about," said Fay.

"I obviously don't want my mom talking to me about sex or something like that, but I think there should be more restraints on social media," said Sierra Samuelson, high school student.

The meeting comes a week after Barrington police launched a criminal investigation into an alleged sexting incident at Barrington Middle School involving sexually-explicit photos of a female student being distributed amongst a group of male friends.

As authorities consider criminal charges, school officials Wednesday night said they've punished some of the students.

"There's really a range of disciplinary action in an unfortunate situation like this (Suspension?) That could be a part of it," said Jeff Arnett, Barrington School District 220 spokesperson.

But Wednesday's meeting was about looking forward to prevent future sexting through parental awareness and involvement, and explaining the consequences to kids.

"We cannot deprive our kids of social media because this is their language, and we have to respect that. So I think we as a society and culture need to really learn how to speak their language, how to engage with them," said Dr. Nausheen Din, child & adolescent psychiatrist.

The investigator in charge of the alleged Barrington Middle School sexting case says the phones belonging to the kids in question have been sent to an FBI digital forensics lab. If charges are filed, they could include possession of child pornography.


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