BARRINGTON – Several students openly addressed sexting with adults and peers at the Lake Barrington Field House Thursday.
After learning that sexually explicit messages can present lifelong consequences when being sent to and from minors – consequences that include criminal charges – students brainstormed safe ways to handle a message being sent to their cellphones unwillingly.
Dr. Nausheen Din, a Barrington mother and physician who specializes in child and adolescent psychiatry, presented the sexting talk to the students Thursday after addressing parents with the same topic at the Sanfilippo Estate in Barrington Wednesday.
Both talks came in the wake of a public statement delivered to Barrington Middle School – Station Campus parents April 7 that said "a small group of Barrington 220 adolescents were recently involved in 'sexting' inappropriate images among themselves using their smartphones" and "the real tragedy is some students were victimized in this incident."
The Barrington Police Department and Cook County State's Attorney's Office and Children's Advocacy Center in Cook County are investigating the Station case to determine whether or not criminal charges will be pursued, according to a Barrington Police Department news release sent April 11.
Din said her message was to reinforce the legal consequences of sexting to students and to make parents more aware of why adolescents are sexting images of themselves or requesting images of others, as well as what "red flags" to look for to know if their child is sexting.
One of Din's patients, Lauren Marino, traveled from Chicago to attend Thursday's talk. Marino does not have children of her own, but said she would like more education on the topic to help her nieces, nephews and colleagues who have children.
"Parents cannot close their eyes to sexting," Marino said. "They need to help their child navigate and gain the tools to deal with sexting. In my professional field, I interview job candidates and I don't think teens understand that what they post on social media now can be found in five years. They need to think about what's ahead for them."
A 19-year-old patient who was not in attendance shared her Snapchat conversations with Din's audience
According to young girl's testimony, she and her minor peers were targeted by someone who made a fake Snapchat account posing as a friend who had moved away. The 19-year-old and two minors repeatedly received sexually explicit images from the predator who would make additional accounts to avoid being blocked.
The patient said the predator would incite rumors and had convinced one of the female minors to send a sexually explicit photo of herself in return, which then surfaced to Facebook. The harassment continued, according to the testimony
Many students told Din Thursday that Snapchat is a fun phone app because once you send an image, "it's gone forever.
However, many new apps allow smartphone users to save and view people's Snapchat photos without the other party every receiving a notification, some students said.
Din said she would like parents to research the programs their children use
"It's difficult to avoid social media," Din said. "I believe these kids become desensitized to what's right and wrong. I worry today's youth is losing the art of having actual relationships.
Din linked sexting to sexual violence, and said adolescents who are sexting are more likely to be sexually active
Sexualization – such as selfies – can lead to sexting, which leads to sex, Din said.
Din talked about the Instagram app and how girls are pressured by Kim Kardashian and other celebrities to "stand out in the age of a selfie.
"There's a selfless measure of self worth by judging yourself based on how many 'likes' you get on social media," Din said
Din encouraged the students to be proactive in stopping sexts from circulating
"Ask the sender to stop, do not forward the sext, do not post it on social medial and do not print a copy of the image," Din said
Din encouraged students to bring sexts to the attention of parents or trusted adults
"Don't delete it. You'll need to show police the proof or they might assume you're trying to hide something," Din said
Din told parents to set rules for social media
"The message is not to ban social media," Din said. "It's like having the responsibility of driving a car. You want good breaks and a well-trained driver who understands where one can and cannot go."