DEAR ABBY: I would like to share some important information with "Don't Want to Lose Him in the U.S.A." (Nov. 10). She's the young lady who is being pressured by her boyfriend to take photos of her classmates in the girls' locker room.
The students at the high school where I teach recently attended a program on Internet and online safety. One of the things that really surprised them was learning cell phone calls don't just go from one phone to another. All text messages and calls are transmitted through cell phone towers, which route the calls or texts to the company's server. All sent messages and photos are stored on the provider's server. This means pictures deleted from the phone are never really deleted -- and text messages and photos never go away. They still exist in the virtual world.
Should those pictures become the center of a court case, the information is subject to "discovery." With the right equipment, law enforcement can retrieve deleted photos from anyone's cell phone.
"Don't Want to Lose Him" needs to clearly understand she might be prosecuted for producing, distributing and possessing child pornography. -- A HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER IN CHURCHVILLE, VA.
DEAR TEACHER: Thank you for delivering a valuable message that may provide a wake-up call for all my readers. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Refusing to take the photos, but keeping it quiet, is not enough. I think "Don't Want to Lose Him" should make copies of your column and paste them on every locker to warn all the girls they are at risk -- even when they think they have privacy. She should also tell the principal, who may be able to provide extra protection. -- SHEILA IN GIG HARBOR, WASH.
DEAR ABBY: I think the issue of that young woman's low self-esteem should be addressed. Her boyfriend is holding her hostage to his wishes and desires, and will probably always do so if she continues to stay with him. It's important that "Don't Want to Lose Him" learns to love the principled, intelligent person she already is and continue to stand up for herself. Eventually, someone will appreciate her good qualities and she won't have to settle for less than she deserves. -- BEEN THERE IN ARIZONA
DEAR ABBY: "Don't Want to Lose Him" should report this to a trusted adult or school counselor. At the very least, this girl needs to know she will be doing a great service if she lets the other girls know so they can be on the lookout for someone sneaking a camera or cell phone into their locker room. She could also use some support and affection that doesn't come from a manipulative, self-serving "boyfriend." -- LISA IN SAN RAFAEL, CALIF.
DEAR ABBY: I am a mental health professional. What "Don't Want to Lose Him" is being pressed to do is called "sexting," and it is a criminal offense in almost every state in the U.S. The young lady and whoever receives and distributes those photos could be convicted of a felony, serve prison time and live the rest of their lives as registered sex offenders.
There have been cases of young people -- victims of sexting -- who have committed suicide over the humiliation of being exposed against their will. Once these photos go "viral," they are on the Internet forever. Parents, friends, teachers and schools need to make it a priority to talk to kids about the moral, legal and social ramifications of taking these kinds of photos of themselves and others. -- JACQUELINE IN GIBSONIA, PA.