Guam AG greatly concerned about youth sexting - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Guam AG greatly concerned about youth sexting

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 by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - There's Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Whatsapp...the list goes on as there are dozens of apps that can be used to share personal photos, not only online, but over smartphones. Question is, are you sharing too much? Are you putting your best face forward on the World Wide Web?

It's being referred to as an emerging crime not just here on Guam, but all over the world.

More and more people are reportedly oversharing online and over their smartphones - the most vulnerable, however, are the youths. "The typical things are pictures, inappropriate pictures of themselves - selfies," explained Leonardo Rapadas, Guam's attorney general. "Unfortunately we're seeing a lot of naked selfies, group selfies, not just still pictures but also videos. Those are the things that are happening right now and are being sent to their friends and each other."

Oftentimes done with innocent intentions,  Rapadas warns that youths snapping naked photos or videos could ruin more than just their reputations.

Referred to as "sexting," he says youths must understand the repercussions as the material qualifies as child pornography. Consequences range from being court ordered to register as a sex offender or worse - life behind bars in extreme cases. Rapadas said, "It's an emerging crime. It's still kind of still growing it's happening it's not being caught."

And beware. According to assistant AG Carol Hinkle-Sanchez, the Web can be a dangerous and vulnerable place for youths to navigate. "A lot of predators actually use Kik or they use some type of chat room or blog site and they lure children into submitting or sending nude pictures of themselves. It's happened on Guam - one of our youngest kids who utilized one of the sources and did send a nude picture," she explained.

Hinkle-Sanchez adds, the frequency of such crimes is expected to rise, saying, "Some of these crimes are just underreported, not being done. But we see the rise already in 2014 we've already charged out three cases and there's an ongoing investigation of I want to say at least five if not ten cases at this time."

But what can be done to address the problem? According to Island Girl Power's Juanita Blaz, education and outreach needs to happen - not only addressed to kids, but to moms and dads at home too. After all, inappropriate online behaviors have the potential to lead to depression or suicide and later in life, could cost an individual their dream job or acceptance into college.

"We are learning and as a community learning how to deal with the new resurgence of social media, we have to be proactive. We as parents, as teachers, we need to check up on them and be aware of their Facebook accounts, take responsibility for our children because they're not adults yet. We need to be the ones to take care of their images that they're portraying in the community," she told KUAM News.

When in doubt on whether something is appropriate to post online, Blaz gives this word of advice, saying simply, "If it's not something that you're not going to be totally proud of with any group of your family, then don't post it."

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