More than 30 St. Clairsville High School students may be in big trouble because they were involved in "sexting" - using cellular telephones to disseminate sexually explicit pictures.
Unfortunately, this happens all the time. It has occurred in our area before. Why reports of teenagers being arrested and prosecuted for sexting did not make the danger of the practice clear to the St. Clairsville students is beyond us.
"Sexting" is use of a cellular telephone or other communications device to disseminate sexually explicit pictures or messages. It amounts to pornography.
The St. Clairsville probe is being conducted by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. It may take time, but the case will be handled thoroughly, and that may mean even more youngsters will be dragged into it.
The content of pictures and/or messages being investigated is not known. Often in sexting cases involving teenagers, pictures being sent around via cell phone are of other juveniles in sexually explicit poses.
Aside from the moral objections to sexting - and, beyond argument, the practice is wrong - it is illegal, regardless of the intent of those involved.
And once sexting begins among a group of young people, it tends to spread like wildfire.
What some teenagers do not seem to understand is how easy it is to get caught in sexting. Once law enforcement agencies have a sexting picture or message, it is not at all difficult for them to backtrack through the network of those who have received and re-sent the "sexts."
Parents who have not discussed all this with their children should do so immediately. One key consideration is this: It is not illegal to receive a sexually explicit picture or message sent to one's cell phone by another person. That process is beyond the control of the receiver.
But forwarding the picture or message to someone else is illegal the very second the "send" button is hit.
Another thing teens need to understand is that transmitting a sexually explicit picture of oneself, even to one other person, is illegal.It may be too late for teens involved in the St. Clairsville investigation to stay out of trouble. But throughout the Ohio Valley, parents should be talking to their children - and examining their cell phones, if it is thought necessary -to keep them from making life-altering mistakes.