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By CHRISTINE S. MOYER
With pink nails matching the pink stripes on her beach towel, 15-year-old _____ typed a text message poolside at Naperville's Centennial Beach on Monday. Her girlfriends did the same, each of them frantically tapping away on their phone keypads.
So, do they know about "sexting"? "Yeaaaah," they quickly replied.
For those out of the loop, "sexting" is a term used to describe sending text-messaging of sexual pictures.
And no, the girls never send those kinds of messages.
But they each have a friend, or know a girl, who has.
"There was this girl," started _____, 15, a sophomore at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville. "She sent a picture of herself to her boyfriend and he sent it around school."
Long story short, the girl switched schools, _____ said with an air of finality.
Should it be illegal?
The girls thought for a moment.
"It is bad," _____ decided. "But I don't think (the punishment) should go too far."
Bill targets minors
State Rep. Darlene Senger (Email), who represents Naperville and the far East Side of Aurora, filed legislation last month aimed at preventing minors from sexting.
This legislation, House Bill 4583, would make it illegal for a minor under the age of 17 to knowingly disseminate any material that depicts nudity or other sexual conduct.
Those caught would meet with a juvenile officer and receive consequences such as community service, writing term papers, apology letters, curfew regulations and allowing parents to install software on their cell phones to closely monitor their child.
- Allowing parents to install software? They can do that now! You are not "allowing" them to do anything!
Under current law, sending a naked or lewd display of genitalia of a minor is a felony, as is requesting that someone else take, receive or distribute such an image, said Richard Wistocki of the Naperville Police Department Computer Crimes Unit.
"If you receive (an obscene image) and post it on a Web site for 24 hours or more, that's a Class 4 felony," Wistocki said.
Senger's legislation proposes that a youth found guilty of doing that two or more times be tried in court and, if convicted, be required to register as a sex offender, he said.
It also grants juvenile officers the discretion of either sending a first-time offender into the court system or completing what Wistocki termed "a station adjustment."
Send to one, send to all
Back at Centennial Beach, _____ considered the more lenient repercussions for first-time offenders.
"Community service won't stop it," she assured, her girlfriends nodding in agreement.
"Jail," she said, "that would stop people."
A beach towel away, 15-year-old _____ sun-bathed with a group of friends.
"It's definitely going on," _____, a Naperville Central High School sophomore, confirmed.
And these pictures, some of them, _____ confided, are totally naked.
Her twin, _____, described how it works.
One girl, she said, will send it to one guy, and then he will send it to everyone.
The lone guy in the group at the beach, 15-year-old _____, confirmed the theory.
He has received multiple "sext" messages, he said, but never passed any on to other people.
"Because I know they'd be pissed if they found out," _____ said, a little embarrassed.
_____, 16, of Aurora, has heard her Waubonsie Valley High School classmates make fun of girls in the "sexting" pictures they received, or saw on other people's cell phones.
"They say, 'Have you seen what she looks like?'" _____ said, taking a break from studying drivers education with a friend at an Aurora cafe.
Naperville police see around one "sexting" case each week, Wistocki estimated.
Those teens caught engaging in the act are charged with harmful material — a misdemeanor — and receive 90 days of police supervision.
While _____ and her friends insist there's a lot of sexting going on, the girls stressed they would never participate in it.
"My parents would kill me," _____ said. And then she cringed, ending the conversation.
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin (Bill Of Rights)