School administrators are increasingly being called on to handle sexting incidents in schools that involve students as well as staff members, Education Week reports.
The article cites a 2009 Pew Research Center report which found 4% of teens with cell phones had sent a text to someone that included a sexually explicit or suggestive photo, and 15% also reported receiving such a text.
Because state laws on sexting vary, school administrators are often left in a gray area over to how to respond, especially when they are looking to preserve evidence, the article says, and they can even face legal trouble under laws related to child pornography if they want to consult with other school leaders over the incident.
More recent data from the Cyberbullying Research Center shows that 12% of students in the 12- to 17-year-old range say they have sent an explicit image of themselves at least once, and 4% say they have done so within the past month. About 19% said they had received such a message. The center’s researchers surveyed 5,500 middle and high school students and suggest that these rates are lower than in some other reports. The center also provides digital citizenship resources for educators.
Teaching students about the possible consequences of sexting is one aspect of the rising emphasis on digital literacy lessons in schools. Common Sense Education, which offers classroom lessons on media, is another source that teachers and librarians are using to help students think before they share or post private photos.
A brief from the American Association of School Administrators recommends that schools and districts partner with other community organizations to train teachers in internet safety and how sexting connects to the larger issue of cyberbullying. Schools can also draw attention to the dangers of sexting among students and parents by holding assemblies, distributing resources, and providing reminders throughout the year.