Sexting isn’t an issue unique to any one group. But when high school football players in Cañon City, Col., were found to be part of a scandal in which hundreds of nude photos were exchanged via texts, the team had to forfeit its last regular-season game. The issue of teens exchanging sexually explicit photos by cell phone became the focus of a national discussion.
Some states have adopted new laws to address the problem. But, as Steve Delsohn reports for Outside the Lines (ESPN, Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, produced by Simon Baumgart and Aaron Johnson), in other states, sexting can result in much more serious consequences including being charged as a felon. Delsohn spoke about the OTL piece with Front Row:
What brought the story of the Colorado athletes to OTL’s attention?
I suggested it as a feature after a number of media outlets had reported on it. Number one, I thought we could advance it. Number two, none of the students in Colorado were charged, so I thought it could be juxtaposed with the case in North Carolina, where an athlete and his girlfriend were initially charged with multiple felony counts for exchanging nude photos.
Did you have difficulty getting people to go on-camera with you on this subject?
Yes and no. In Colorado, we have several people on-camera – the district attorney, the high school principal, two recently graduated seniors who knew all about it – but we also reached out to more than 200 current and former students and none said they exchanged explicit photos, even though dozens of them confirmed facts and details. And, then, in North Carolina, we were able to interview the athlete who was charged with felonies before he struck a plea and the charges were reduced to misdemeanors.
What do you hope viewers will take away from this piece?
That teenage sexting, even between one girl and one boy in a relationship, can have severe repercussions if the photos end up being traded with other kids, or posted on the Internet, or get discovered by high schools and/or the police. In many states, teen sexting can still be prosecuted under child pornography laws, partly because those laws were written before there were smartphones and provocative selfies. Subsequently, as we saw in the North Carolina case, laws that were intended to protect minors can end up harming them.