Wes: Last week we discussed the sexting revolution, especially as it includes sexually explicit digital photography. If it’s too late and those images already exist, here’s how to avoid making that bad situation worse.
1) Never transmit those images between devices. You may think they’re going to just one person, but that violates every logical tenet of digital information. Assume the worst.
2) Store media containing explicit photos of yourself in a secure place. If you are a minor it is illegal to share them. If you destroy them, do so with certainty. When we “delete” a file, we’re just pushing it out of the directory. Any hacker can work around that.
3) NEVER carry sexually explicit images on your phone. This is begging for a breech of privacy and potential legal charges.
4) If someone else is depicted, destroy the image. No ifs, ands or buts. Take the phone in and ask them to reset it and the storage card to factory settings and to make a note of having done so on your account. That way if you are accused and your phone is taken and analyzed you can point out that you did your best to eliminate the illegal images. Same goes for computers or camera chips.
If you’re hell-bent on ignoring this advice and you get caught, be aware of your Miranda rights as a citizen of the United States. All parents should discuss this with their children. Your phone or computer is your property, and you should not give it up to anyone without a warrant. However, phones may be confiscated at school when they are being used improperly. However, schools do not have any right to access the data on your devices. If you’re asked to provide an unlocking code (and everyone should have a really good one), contact your parents immediately. At that point parents should seek the advice of an attorney before relinquishing the phone if there is cause for concern about its content. The attorney can advise you on reasonable search and seizure and probable cause. We all have a legal right to due process. Learn everything there is to know about yours before you need it.
If an image is sent to your phone before you know what hit you, find out at once how to purge it. What may seem fun in one context can turn illegal down the road, and nowhere is that a steeper slope than in the area of sexting and sexual photography.
Ben: Maybe this all sounds a little over your head. With all the sexual drama we see among teenagers on TV and all the rumors we hear at school about hookups, it seems as though all this tech-sex stuff has virtually no consequence. I mean, you’re not impregnating anyone, right?
Sure, but if you and/or the other person are under 18, you’re stepping into the realm of child pornography. Send it, you get charged with production; keep it, you get charged with possession. Not exactly a fun fact you want buzzing in the halls at school or on your permanent record.
Privacy is a sketchy thing in light of social networking. Your phone is not a safe. The instant your phone receives or sends a “sext,” you start carrying a huge chunk of incriminating evidence in your pocket. Your friends may think it’s funny; a lawyer won’t. Google these cases. We’re not kidding about this.
Next week: A school psychologist takes issue with our advise on IDEA and IEPs.