Cracking the codes: Teens and Sexting - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Cracking the codes: Teens and Sexting

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(11/13/12) - Nowadays, it seems all pre-teens and teenagers have cell phones. While the phones are meant to help make life easier, they can serve as a catalyst for destruction.

A growing number of teenagers are finding themselves in the middle of "sexting" scandals. Candles fueled by secret codes to help keep parents in the dark.

ABC12's Autumn Perry brings us a special report "Cracking The Codes".

Hope Witsell of Florida, 13 years old. Jessica Logan of Ohio, 18 years old. Two beautiful, smart girls with a tragic connection. Both committed suicide after sexting-related torment from classmates.

Unfortunately, their stories are becoming all to common in the world of constant communication through texting and social media. "We see a lot of times where children find themselves forced to move schools, we find that they have a lot of emotional damage and ultimately at times it can lead to suicide," said Michigan State Police community activist, Scott Nichols.

Experts say sexting is far more prevalent among teens than parents know. Though it rarely leads to suicide, it is life changing and the ramifications are permanent.

"It does not go away. When you graduate college and go on to your first job, don't be surprised if someone pulls up those images of you in a mean spirited, stalking way, puts those images at your work site," Nichols said.

Nichols says parental education is key. So ABC12 set out to help parents crack some the codes they didn't even know existed. By now, many of us know the common texting codes like 'lol' and 'ttyl.' But what about GYPO, PAW, TDTM or GNOC?

They are all texting codes - sexually explicit in nature. We took the codes with us to a Mid-Michigan high school to find how familiar parents are with the codes. We got the answer pretty quickly, and the parents got an eye-opening experience. Parents we approached at Grand Blanc High School had no idea what they meant. Don't feel bad, most parents don't know.

"It's kind of scary actually. I would have no idea, if I saw them type that out, I would have no idea what that means," said parent Brandee Lecki.

"It's sad that there are so many of them out there and to really keep up with it is the hardest part," said parent Matthew Morrish.

As pressure mounts on young girls to "sext", Nichols says it's more important than ever parents learn this secret texting language.

"It hasn't happened to me personally that often, but it has happened," said 16-year-old Kaylee Sullivan.

High school student, Tiffany Turner, says it is common among people her age. "My other friend had her reputation ruined because of it, so we talk a lot about that."

Tiffany Turner and Kaylee Sullivan openly admit, they've been pressured, but the stories like those of Jessica Logan and Hope Witsell kept them from clicking 'send.' "I just thought of other people that have killed themselves because of pictures and stuff that have gone viral and I just thought I don't want to be like that so I didn't want to do it," Turner said.

While Turner's good choices spared her the emotional trauma tied to sexting, many her age will statistically fall victim to the troubling trend. The sooner parents can translate these codes - the safer their children are.

"I just don't want them to be taken advantage of and she might not know things, but it's our job to learn things so they can understand them too," said Tiffany's mom Shannon.

For more information on these secret codes and list of definitions - click HERE & HERE

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