TROY — Nearly everyone carries a mobile phone. The smart technology can make life easier for most people, but it can be a very dangerous tool in the hands of a juvenile. If used inappropriately, the device can ruin the future for children under the age of 18. Probation officer Gerald (Jerry) Dornbusch Jr., from Miami County Juvenile Court, spoke about the dangers of sexting among youth and teenagers during Troy Rotary’s Oct. 11 meeting.
A probation officer for Miami County since 1988, Dornbusch has seen many issues related to juvenile crimes; however, there has been an alarming upward trend in sexting recently that is causing problems for local children and their families. Sexting is the taking of indecent photos and sending those images to others on electronic devices or over the Internet. It is an illegal act for anyone under 18 years of age. Nationally, it is estimated that 28 percent of girls have sexted such photos. The Miami County Prosecutor’s Office, 201 W. Main St., Troy, has seen cases where children as young as 8 years old engaged in sexting without realizing their actions could result in felony charges. The seemingly unlimited choices of social media Web sites and applications can also evolve a sexting action into cyber bullying or become human trafficking concerns. It is a trend that is a growing concern in Miami County.
Dornbusch and the Miami County Juvenile Services Department feel one stupid mistake should not ruin an otherwise good child for life and have launched an educational program to help prevent problems. The program highlights the issues and dangers of sexting. It has been delivered in schools and for parents and includes talking about social media options and risks. They also discuss criminal sanctions, including the Adam Walsh Act and being placed on the Sex Offender Registry. The goal is to prevent sexting, encourage reporting, and reduce the possibility that a juvenile will reoffend as an adult. Currently, reoffending occurs in 8-13 percent of cases. Dornbusch spends a lot of time talking about healthy relationship building and how to use alternative forms of communication, such as face-to-face and talking on the phone, rather than texting, with friends and relatives. To learn more, visit the Miami County Juvenile Court Web site at http://co.miami.oh.us/index.aspx?nid=133.
To learn more about Rotary and membership, visit www.troyohiorotary.org.