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In just seconds sex-texting can ruin kids’ future

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POSTED May 23, 2014 1:16 a.m.

It was a typical teen split up.

She was 15. He was 18. 

He wasn’t happy about breaking up. It is how dating goes in high school.

But it’s a new era. A break-up can lead to criminal prosecution and a lifetime as a registered sex offender. Credit it to technology and teens that don’t think more than two seconds into the future.

At one point she had taken a nude selfie and sex-texted it to her boyfriend. No harm, right? You’re going to be together forever. But forever in high school rarely extends beyond the next semester. Angry about the breakup, the ex-boyfriend sends the photo to the entire football team.

It gets worse. A registered sexual predator trolling the Internet comes across the nude selfie. He finds the girl’s Facebook page and notices her parents are on her friends’ list. The predator contacts the girl and starts making demands threatening to send the photo to her parents if she doesn’t comply.

The girl does the right thing and comes clean to her parents. They contact the police. Officers set up a sting and arrest the man.

Sounds like something that wouldn’t happen in Manteca? Guess again. It did.

And that’s not the end of the story.

The 18-year-olld is an adult. The 15-year-old is a minor. He is facing child pornography charges as well as revenge porn charges. The photo was circulated at least 1,000 times. That means the district attorney could charge him with 1,000 counts of child porn. And he could end up starting his life registered as a sex offender.

Tori Verber Salazar relates this story not to underscore the prosecutorial prowess of the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office, the superb job Manteca Police did, how a 15-year-old was brave enough to “face the music” and tell her parents or even how responsible the parents reacted.

Salazar, who is a smart and cutting edge prosecutor running for the District Attorney’s post, wants parents to understand they need to protect their kids from technology. And it’s not in the way you are probably thinking.

“Giving a cell phone to your child and not taking the time to caution them about the dangers is like giving them a loaded gun,” Salazar said.

She admits not having a heart-to-heart with her three children when they received their first cell phone. That has since changed.

“In a half second time they can do something that (will haunt them) for their entire life,” she noted.

And its’ not just sex-texting or sending nude photos of themselves or resending nude photos of someone else who is not of age.

Salazar took the time to research with AT&T — her family’s wireless carrier — about how various apps and smart media that kids use to communicate operate. She even had all of the texts going to and from her children’s phones sent to her cellphone while telling her kids what she was doing.

Some of the texts her sixth grader was receiving alarmed her.  Her child’s peers were using the “N” word, the “B” word, and calling others “hoes.” The language floored her. She will sometimes send a quick text out to chastise the pre-teens’ choice of words.

But the real problem goes way beyond potty texting.

The kids have created an electronic footprint that doesn’t disappear. They could apply one day for admission to a university or for a job and be rejected thanks to the high-tech dragnet human resource departments for many companies are now doing.

As Salazar noted a woman isn’t going to hire someone to work for her that throws around the “B” word and calls others “hoes.” Equally bad are racist words. No business is going to want to hire someone who appears to have a propensity to embrace racism even if they were only joking. It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.

This is where Salazar is light years ahead of her opponent. She is actively engaged in an ongoing effort to educate teens and participates in her office’s efforts to go to high schools to tell students of the danger of an anything goes approach to communicating via cell phones. Last year, she helped deliver that message to 5,000 San Joaquin County high school students.

Salazar isn’t a techie prosecutor. She’s a solid, old-fashioned tough as nails prosecutor as demonstrated by her work since 2006 with the gang-homicide unit. She was the lead prosecutor in the largest ever sweep of Asian gang members in dismantling the LTC’s gang’s ability to move narcotics and guns at will and spread violence. She was able to get a 242 years to life sentence for gang shooter that opened fire in a Tracy restaurant injuring eight and killing an innocent bystander. She secured a 25 year to life sentence for a gang leader who sent his henchmen to beat a 14-year-old boy to death.

Salazar is also working to establish a San Joaquin Family Justice Center to work with victims of crimes. Right now, as an example, it takes about eight hours and 100 miles of travel back and forth between various agencies and the court to get a restraining order. The justice center would make it a one-stop procedure.

Little, if anything is now done to help victims. Assembly Bill 109, though, mandated all sorts of help to get defendants back on their feet as productive members of society.

“What we do for defendants who have committed crimes, we should do twice as much for a victim,” Salazar said.

 

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209.249.3519.

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