Research shows nearly 40 percent of teens have sent sexually suggestive messages through text, email or instant messaging. Now, a Meridian police officer is teaching parents and students about the dangers of sexting and how to stop it.
To parents, what's on their kids' smartphones is often a mystery.
Ray Ellis, Meridian Police Officer and School Resource Officer at Heritage Middle School, says sexting among children and teens is more common -- and hits closer to home -- than we think.
"We were arresting, or writing charges for a lot of kids for sexting because of the fact that it was creating and in possession of child pornography," Ellis said. "But we weren't doing a lot about the problem. We were just reacting to it."
Working closely with school counselors, Officer Ellis says they help educate students on the dangers of sexting, and dealing with the "why."
"We have to deal with why they're using it, and then to help them understand that if they have gotten involved with using it, that's where the addictive behavior comes in,"Ellis said. "And now they may not be totally in control of what they're doing."
His work with local students is what inspired Officer Ellis to offer a workshop on the issue of sexting. It's part of Heritage Middle School's "Parenting Pieces" program.
For concerned parents, he says keep up the open dialogue with your kids.
"As responsible adults, I think i t's our responsibility as a community, whether professionally or working at a school, to speak into the lives of the youth around us, because they only get one chance at being kids," Ellis said.
Officer Ellis' workshop is Tuesday, Dec. 5, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Heritage Middle School in Meridian. It's free and students are welcome to attend.