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Wichita Falls teens caught "sexting"

Wichita Falls_A new fad involving teens and sexually explicit cell phone text messages, pictures, and videos has made its way to Texoma.  Police say kids as young as 13 have been caught participating in the activity in Wichita Falls.  Authorities say not only is it illegal, it can have long term consequences that could destroy the teens' reputations when they reach adulthood. 

Police say they are trying to nip the problem in the bud before more lives are destroyed by the careless practice.  They say the big worry is what happens to the photos and videos after they are sent.  They can be forwarded to a lot of other people - or worse, uploaded to the internet within seconds. 

Wichita Falls Police say they know that "kids will be kids," but with advancing technology, "sexting" is creating a realm of new dangers for teens.  Juvenile probation officers were some of the first to discover the fad's arrival in the Falls.  "When they're checking these kids phones who are on probation, they're finding this stuff on it," said Sergeant Ginger Gilmore.  "It's either pictures - sexually explicit pictures - or videos."

Gilmore says that so far, most of the cases only have involved juveniles "sexting" other juveniles - predominately kids in junior high or middle school.  "They hit that send button and that picture is gone forever - they're never going to be able to get that picture back," she said.  "Once they send it to a boyfriend or girlfriend, they don't know who that person is going to forward it to, and before you know it, it ends up on the internet or everybodys' phone in a certain school."

Police say a Wichita Falls girl learned her lesson the hard way after pictures she "sexted" were forwarded to other students at her school.  Gilmore says the girl suffered humiliation and later was the subject of harassing text messages - and that's just while she's in school.  Police say they worry that this practice may affect kids' higher education and career aspiration, and they want parents to take responsibility.  "Randomly check your child's phone and see what they're receiving and what they're sending out," said Gilmore.  "We understand nobody can control what they receive on their phone, but they can control is if it stays on that phone or not."

She says the best thing to do if your child gets "sext" messages is to delete them immediately so they can't be sent to anyone else.  Under Texas law, "sexting" can be considered a felony or misdemeanor.  Wichita Falls Police say they are treating "sexting" as a misdemeanor, and filing cases involving minors through the juvenile justice system.
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