This is a story that is all to familiar with Juvenile Investigators. The following are excerpts from an article that was published on www.twincities.com. See the suggestions for parents and children after the article.
She was elated when the boy asked her to go steady. He told her he loved her in text messages, for that is how some young people today prefer to communicate feelings rather than face to face. And for the first month, Michaela Snyder, then a seventh-grader at Lake Middle School in Woodbury, was walking on air.
Then things gradually changed.
The boy asked her one day to send him a “selfie” from the torso up wearing just a bra. She thought it unusual, but she complied. After he suggested she was fat, she developed bulimia. When she refused once to send more pictures, he texted that she was already a slut and that it would not matter anymore.
What began as a typical middle-school dating relationship quickly degenerated into sexual manipulation as Michaela, in order to please the boy, reluctantly sent more sexually provocative pictures of herself.
“My circle of friends said they all did it,” the now-15-year-old high school freshman told me this week as we chatted at a St. Paul coffee shop, her father by her side. “They didn’t think anything of it. I felt bad about it, but I did not want to lose him.”
But after her stepmother checked her cellphone and found the pictures she had sent him, Michaela became the subject of a bullying campaign by her so-called friends and others to the point where she fell into a deep depression and thought of taking her life.
If you think this could not happen to your child, consider that Michaela is the daughter of Grant Snyder, a veteran Minneapolis police sergeant in the crimes against children unit who has spent most of his career busting pimps and trying to help sexually exploited young girls and women.
“I talked openly with her about the cases I worked on, how (pimps) manipulate girls into (doing drugs and performing sex for money),” he said. “I believe if you gave information, that was protection enough. It wasn’t.
“We were not able to protect her until after the fact,” he added. “I never expected we would walk down that road. It opened my eyes as to how vulnerable our girls are and what it is to be a female in this world.”
What disturbs me about Michaela’s story is not so much the sexting but that she was the one shamed by her peers after it was discovered. Dines says that reaction is also common in her research.
Now a freshman at East Ridge High School, Michaela shared her story at a health symposium last week. There was hardly a dry eye in the audience, composed mostly of social workers, health care professionals and some law enforcement personnel.
“I felt unbelievable pride that somehow this girl of mine at 14 (now 15) had the perspective that took me 50 years to get,” Grant Snyder said. “She’s making her own choices now.”
One choice is to share her story through this column, even though she’s nervous about the possible reaction from members of her church youth group, high school cheerleading team and others who don’t know the details.
“I know there are girls right now going through the same thing I did,” Michaela said. “I want them to know that there are people who love and care for them. I also want parents and other people to know that this is not OK and that they have to stop being naive that this doesn’t happen.”
Cyber Safety Cop:
Here are three points of discussion parents should have with their children regarding sexting:
Sexting is a Crime
It could be considered a violation of child pornography laws or felony obscenity. The law prohibits creation, possession and transmission of child pornography by any “person,” including minors. Some teens have been arrested.
Sexting Affects Your Reputation
A tween/teen’s reputation both online and off is precious. Once a teen’s reputation has been tarnished by sexting it can be impossible to repair.
Predators posing as teens online may solicit nude photos or videos from unsuspecting kids and then extort them to send more pictures, video, or to meet them in person to commit a sex act.