Colorado High School Sexting Scandal Involves Over 100 Students
Just south of Colorado Springs, Colorado lies a small town of 16,000 called Canon City. Canon City started as a hub of logistics in the late 1800s and early 1900s when gold and silver mining was at its peak in the region. After the gold rush slowed down, many stayed as the geography of the region provides mild climate and varying terrain. This small valley nestled in the Rocky Mountains was rocked recently by a shocking revelation that hundreds of their children were engaging in the production and distribution of underage pornography, trading pictures of themselves and others as if they were collecting baseball cards or commemorative postage stamps.
The relatively safe, semi-rural community of Canon City is now trying to wrap their heads around what to do about the more than one hundred different students who have exposed themselves and shared the image with others. Rules on the subject have been unchanged since they were written over 30 years ago, when digital photography did not exist and photographs needed to be developed by a professional mediator before they were able to be printed, duplicated or passed around. The problem now is that children are using smartphones and tablets without guidance or monitoring, and smartphones give them the ability to engage in adult activities without any authority figure standing in the way.
Law enforcement in the town is not quire sure how to handle a problem this large with so many people involved. The district attorney Thom LeDoux notes, Consenting adults can do this to their hearts’ content, but if the subject is under the age of 18, that’s a problem. While LeDoux is not interested in arresting hundreds of students, he has indicated that he will use discretion when weighing the situation. Many of the children involved did not intend to share the images of themselves with more than one person, but once the images have been shared with others, it is nearly impossible to prevent them from being duplicated or shared with others. The event that brought the problem to light was revelation that at least a few students at the school were compiling collections from others at school, leading to a large catalog of images that should never have been created in the first place.
There is a fair share of finger pointing to go around in this instance. Parents have expressed frustration with the school administration for not doing more to prevent students from sending explicit images to other students. School administrators feel powerless in the situation, as they cannot dictate how students use their phones. The children have a mindset that since they have their own smartphone, they can do whatever they want and do the same things that adults do. With smartphones and wireless Internet technology changing the way media is created and shared, it seems that the time is right to begin taking another look at rules concerning the subject which were written during a time when children did not have access to photography equipment like they do today.
When finding a solution to this modern and complicated issue, each parent must look at their own unique situation to determine what is best for their children. Parents might avoid providing their children with their own smartphone until they are old enough to understand the severity of the situation. Many parents have elected to take their children out of public schools when they found that other children were harassing and bullying their child with a smartphone. What others have found to be a responsible solution is incorporating a parental monitoring program and reaching a usage agreement with their children when providing them with smartphones. Once children understand that everything they share digitally with friends will also be shared openly with their parents, the temptation to misbehave and access inappropriate content on their parents’ phone fades away.