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CLEVELAND – Thousands of teens across Ohio took part in a special town hall meeting about the dangers of “sexting”–sending or receiving sexually explicit photos over their cells phone.

Two teens have already committed suicide after sexually explicit photos were made public.

The program was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice and broadcast from the studios of WVIZ/PBS as part of a distance learning program. More than 100 teens filled the public television station’s studio and thousands more watched at more than 80 schools across Ohio.

Recent studies have shown one in five teens have taken part in sexting. The average teenager sends or receives more than 3,000 text messages every month.

“When I was a kid, the worst thing you could do was write graffiti on the school bathroom,” said U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach. “Now, instead of writing graffiti that gets erased the next day, you send a message and all of a sudden its all over the world wide web and there’s no taking it back. And it can do tremendous damage to kids and their families.”

Teens who took part say the issue is real.

“So many teens do it nowadays–just for technology and everything,” said one teen girl.

“Girls and guys especially are being pressured at this age,” said another.

Michael Sullivan is an Assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecutes Internet and cell phone sex crimes.

“Certainly, they could be charged with a crime, depending on the nature of the photo,” said Sullivan. “It could be distribution or receipt of child pornograph.”

The program is produced as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide iniative launched in May 2006 by the U.S. Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.

Article courtesy of: newsnet5.com

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