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The heavy consequences of 'sexting'

   The suburban teenager shook with sobs last month as she stood up in a federal courtroom and told the story of her involvement with a sexual predator.

   It all started with the teen taking nude pictures of herself and using her cell phone to send them to someone she met on the Internet.

   Someone who said he was 20 years old and called himself "sex master Adam."

   Instead, the pictures went to David Evans, a 48-year-old man who kept demanding more pictures and then threatened to harm her family if she refused to send them, the girl said.

   She said that, after her experience with Evans and other men in her life, she didn't know if she could ever trust another man again.

   Evans was sentenced to more than 17 years in federal prison for using a fake MySpace identity to coerce teenage girls into creating child pornography. The two suburban girls who testified at his sentencing exemplify what can happen when teens indulge in "sexting," the act of using cell phones to send out lewd pictures of oneself.

   In a survey conducted by an organization that is trying to prevent teen pregnancies, more than 20 percent of teenagers admitted that they have used cell phones or the Internet to send out nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves to others.

   Local experts believe those numbers are accurate. They are surprised how widespread the activity is in Western New York.

   "I won't say it's an epidemic, but it's common," said Leonard Guagliano, a Niagara County Sheriff's investigator who lectures in schools on Internet safety. "Much more common than parents think."

   Does your son or daughter have a cell phone? Have you spoken to them about using it appropriately? Is your school educating students and parents about such issues?

   "Once this stuff gets out there on the 'net, it's out there forever," said Senior Detective James F. Hatch of the Erie County Sheriff's office. "Kids don't realize this."

   -- Dan Herbeck

  
  

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