New law adds sexting and more to health education curriculum

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JEFFERSON CITY - A new law will add how to avoid online sexual predators and the dangers of sexting  to Missouri's health education curriculum.

18-year-old Columbia resident Kelsey Haney said it is important to teach teenagers about online predators in the classroom.

"A lot of times teens think it's just parents trying to scare them, but it's actually a real thing and it does happen," Haney said.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before adulthood. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that 56 percent of kids that were sexually solicited were asked to send a picture.

According to research by the Journal on Adolescent Health, 29 percent of internet sex crimes were initiated via social media. Also according to the Journal on Adolescent Health, in 82 percent of the online sex-crimes against minors, predators used information from the victim's social media to gain knowledge about the victim's likes and dilikes.

"Random people will add you on Facebook and they seem nice, but you don't really know who they are," Haney said.

According to a Pew Research survey, 4 percent of teens ages 12-17 said they sent sexually suggestive photos and 15 percent of teens ages 12-17 said they have received sexually suggestive photos. 

The survey also revealed that older teens are more likely to engage in sexting. 8 percent of 17-year-olds have sent sexually suggestive photos and 30 percent of 17-year-olds have received sexually suggestive photos.

"Just be conscious of what you're sending out and that should be, by now's day and ages, common knowledge," Columbia resident Collin Fischer said.

Columbia Public Schools Community Relations Director Michelle Baumstark said Columbia Public Schools were already teaching some of this in the current curriculum, but will adapt to the new laws once the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education tells the schools what needs to be implemented.