Teenagers and the Online Experience: Cyberbullying and Explicit Messages

Teenagers and the Online Experience:  Cyberbullying and Explicit Messages

Karleigh Quinn, Teen Freelance Writer, BCECHS

In the words of Laura Sellers, a detective with Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, Cyberbullying is “Any use of an electronic device to torment or intimidate someone else.” Due to the easy accessibility to media sites and contacts through devices such as cell phones and laptops, cybercrimes have drastically increased in the last decade. According to stopbullying.gov, a government-run website spreading awareness and resources regarding cyberbullying, “16 percent of students in grades 9–12 experienced cyberbullying.”  This can lead to students having negative self-image, poor mental health, and even thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Online crime is surprisingly common, especially among teenagers. While it may not seem like it, the creation of and distribution of explicit texts and images as a teenager is a felony. Due to the PROTECT Act, aka “The Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today” Act, taking, sending, and distributing nudes is seen as “child pornography.” Detective Sellers highlighted the importance of one being aware of their online footprint, and the possibility of nude photographs being exchanged or recorded. Even in private streaming services and chats, there are programs that allow for recording or photography without the sender being alerted. This can lead to explicit photos and conversations being used as concerns to get one way in a relationship or situation. That can quickly become dangerous.

When asked what to do if threatened with the exploitation of private conversations or images, Sellers urges one to seek the immediate attention of an adult. She stated “I would say to find a trusted adult, a teacher, a guidance counselor… It’s going to end up with us either way, but you should go to whoever you need to.” The most crucial thing in that situation is to get as far ahead of anyone receiving the explicit texts or images as possible. If these situations cause a crisis, or if parents find graphic images on their children’s phones, they are urged to call 988 (suicide prevention updated number), or 911 (emergency services).