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LAUSD Is Trying Very Hard To Get Teens To Stop Sexting

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The Los Angeles Unified School District announced a campaign Tuesday to combat sexting among middle school and high school students. Now Matters Later's mission is to convey the potential consequences of sexting as a perfect storm of public humiliation and legal repercussions. While phrases like "dangers of sexting" can seem shrill and alarmist, maybe they've got a point.

L.A. Unified Police Chief Steven Zipperman told the L.A. Times, "We’re really trying to get the message out that before you push that send button, please think about what it may mean to you—not just the criminal factor but the embarrassment, your future employment, college entrance," he said. "What you do now matters, and they need to understand that."

The website is equipped with different sections for teachers, parents, and students, and also shows six videos: some of which are testimonials from teenagers who've been victims of sexting scandals and abuse, and others are more instructional: tips on what's safe and what's not when it comes to social media usage, and opinions and perspectives of sexting from other teenagers. There are dozens of other documents: lessons plans for teachers, fact sheets and tips for parents on how to communicate with their teens—15% of whom have texted sexually explicit content—an awkward birds-and-the-bees convo for the 21st century.

Zipperman told the L.A. Times that the impetus for the campaign was not a direct response to the Venice High case that emerged earlier this year, in which 14 boys were accused of sexual assault after photos of the suspected female victims were posted and widely circulated on social media. But the case does underline a point that school administrators and law enforcement are trying to make: sexting can go from a fun, sexy thing to a vehicle for peer pressure and abuse real quick. Not to mention the fact that texting sexually explicit or nude photos of those under 18 is considered child pornography—even if the photos are of yourself.

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Citing a 2015 Pew Research Center report, the L.A. Times says that 75% of teens (in this study, defined as ages 13-17) have access to smartphones, with 92% going online daily; most of them multiple times a day. As a response to too many cases of sexting-gone-wrong, more than 20 states have passed specific sexting laws.