The proliferation of cell phones equipped with video cameras has made shooting and sending x-rated videos easier than ever for teenagers.
The world of “sexting” — sending sexually explicit text messages — amongst teens that was once limited to raunchy words and pictures is increasingly moving into the video domain — with devastating consequences.
Not a day goes by for 25 year-old Melanie Paradis that she doesn’t think about the events that unfolded during her junior year of high school after an explicit video she made for a high school crush earned her the nickname “porn star.”
“He asked me to send him a video using my webcam of me taking my clothes off.” Paradis said. “I did it after school one day and sent it to him.”
The video of then 15-year-old Paradis stripping was shared by her crush with another student, then uploaded to the school’s computer lab; where it was viewed by other students, teachers, and even the principal.
“I’d be at the movie theater on the weekend with friends and someone would shout ‘porn star’ at me,” Paradis said. “There was no escaping that I had made a mistake. I’d made a really big mistake.”
According to a 2008 study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, more than 1 in 5 teenage girls have sent or posted nude images of themselves.
“It’s a definite crisis,” said Sgt. Thomas Rich, an Internet safety expert. “It’s just modern day truth or dare with technology involved.
The pressure to send illicit material is also beginning at shockingly young ages.
“I was asked for a picture in seventh grade,” said 15-year-old High School student Jessica Pereira.
The explicit images are often made between teens in a relationship, but after the teens break-up the videos can go viral.
When 16-year-old Julia Kirouac broke up with her boyfriend last fall, she shared the sexy images she says he pressured her into making for him.
“I felt like my whole entire world just, like, crumbled,” Julia said. “I didn’t—understand anything because the person that I had trusted the most did that to me.”
The humiliation sent Julia into a deep depression and in early February Julia downed a bottle of pills — in an attempt to kill herself.
She spent a week in the hospital recovering. Now, she says, she’s learned a powerful lesson she wants to share with other teens.
“I just want them to know that they don’t have to do anything that they don’t want do,” Julia said fighting back tears. ” And if they think that they need to send pictures or videos, whatever it is, to a guy that they’re dating or that they like, it’s not worth it at all.