Passing notes in study hall or getting your best friend to ask a boy if he likes you or, you know, likes you, is so last century. Nowadays, some teenagers are using cell phones to snap pictures of themselves naked and then sending them to their boyfriends and girlfriends.
Many of these pictures are falling into the wrong hands – or worse, everyone's hands, via the Internet – and leading to criminal charges.
Some parents are aghast.
“We did dumb things when we were kids, but not like that,” said Rochelle Hoins of Castle Rock, Colo., where 18 students in her sons' middle school sent nude pictures of themselves last year.
Similar cases have been reported in New Jersey, New York, Alabama, Utah, Pennsylvania, Texas and Connecticut.
School administrators in Santa Fe, Texas, confiscated dozens of cell phones from students in May after nude photos of two junior high girls began circulating. The girls had sent the photos to their boyfriends, who forwarded them to others, officials said.
In La Crosse, Wis., a 17-year-old boy recently was charged with child pornography, sexual exploitation of a child and defamation for allegedly posting nude photos of his 16-year-old ex-girlfriend on MySpace. Authorities said she had taken the pictures with her cell phone and e-mailed them to him.
The images are complicating the work of investigators whose job is to find exploited children. Authorities trying to identify youngsters in naked photos are increasingly discovering that the teens themselves took the shots, said John Shehan, a director at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.