Sexting, or sending explicit text messages, is on the rise with teens and young adults. In some cases it’s more than just illegal, it’s deadly. According to a new poll from the Associated Press and MTV, one out of every three people, between 14 and 24, have sent or received sext messages, and according to MSNBC, most of them don’t know how serious it can be.

Just this year, six students in Pennsylvania were arrested for possessing child pornography because they had taken or received risqué text messages. In Texas a 13 year old boy was arrested after a fellow student sent him a racy text. Even more serious is what happened to Jessica Logan of Ohio and Hope Witsell of Florida. These two girls, one 18 and the other 13 both took nude pictures of themselves with a cell phone and sent it to boys they were interested in. Then the boys turned around and sent the pictures to other students in their schools. For weeks afterward, each girl was harassed and ridiculed mercilessly by classmates, until they couldn’t take it anymore. Both girls hanged themselves in their bedrooms. The MTV poll found girls are sending risqué pictures more often than boys, and about 61% of them say they felt pressured into it. It’s also disturbing that 12% of those who’ve sexted, say they’ve considered suicide.  

So, why are kids taking and sending these pictures, even though they know they’re setting themselves up to be humiliated or even arrested?  Research shows that teenage brains aren’t mature enough to make good decisions. The part of the teenage brain that’s in charge of weighing consequences is still growing. That means kids can’t link the emotion of liking someone, to what might happen if they send an inappropriate picture. In fact only half of the kids surveyed ever thought that images they sent or posted online would ever come back to haunt them. So educate your kids. Help them understand that nothing that they put in a digital format ever goes away, and that a picture they took as a teenager could potentially haunt them well into their adult years.