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STOP! Ignore that text

By Tanna Friday

Sometimes it is an innocent text message from an unknown person saying, “Hey! I am bored. Do you want to chat?” This was one example my 13-year-old son received this weekend.

Tanna Friday

My son walks down the hall with his phone in hand and says with a concerning look, “Mom, this person keeps texting me and I don’t know who it is. They won’t stop!” He hands me his phone, and I type, “You have the wrong number,” Their response, “Yu know who it is dont act dumb.” I look up at my son and tell him to block the number. Thankfully, this incident was innocent, but what if he receives a “sext” — the act of sending nude pictures via cell phone?

It happened to me. I was writing an article when I receive a random text from a young lady that reads, “Hello, you gave me your cell number on Craigslist. It is wonderful to talk to someone who is looking for the same thing as I am,” the unknown person post along with a half nude picture of herself.

My first thought, “Who in the world is this? I didn’t give my number away on Craigslist.” Sure enough, my number was not listed on Craigslist. Then I realize that this is just a random unsolicited text. My second thought, “What if this image came to my son’s phone? Would he come to me with this, ignore the message on his own or respond to this solicitation?”

Once I looked at the number, I realized the area code was located in Philadelphia.

Is this unsolicited text considered “sexting”? Not unless the image is someone who is underage. What is a parent to do?

According to Jefferson County’s Chief Deputy District Attorney, Joe Roberts, blocking and ignoring is the best advice for those receiving these types of unsolicited messages. “Depending on the content of the message will determine if local law enforcement will pursue investigation,” says Roberts. “This is an unusual situation with technology where we are behind in this area, but there are some Alabama statutes that may apply in some cases.”

Statues such as, AL Code § 13A-6-122 (2012) and 13A-11-8 (2013) that pertain to electronic solicitation of a child and harassing communications may be relevant if further communication persist. “If the text persists into luring a child with inappropriate behavior then an investigation may occur,” says Roberts.

According to Trussville Detective/Public Service Officer, Michael Bruce, some cases like this can become a little more difficult to investigate. “Since harassing communication is a misdemeanor, we would only have twelve (12) months from the crime to prosecute,” says Bruce. “Obtaining phone records through a court order or subpoena could take up to three months.” Where there are cases related to electronic solicitation of a child, the offense is a felony and would be handled much differently.”

I took appropriate action and blocked the call. I urge you as parents to monitor your child’s phone activity to safeguard against this potential crime.

Mobile carriers such as AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon recommend reporting these messages as spam to the carrier. To do this, copy the text and send it to SPAM (7726). You will receive a text requesting the sender’s phone number. There are also phone apps available for parents to monitor texts such as DDI Utilities, Highster Mobile, Auto Forward Spy, and Surepoint Spy.

Tanna Friday is a writer for The Trussville Tribune. 

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