Dangerous Teen Trends: Sexting

The Dangers of Sexting

"I had no idea what Lacey was doing up in her bedroom. I discovered Lacey was accessing an Internet Web site from her bedroom with a handheld video game player," John says of his 12-year-old daughter. 

"She created this alternate personality. She lied and said she was 16. She would say that she drank, she did drugs, she could drive," the girl's stepmother, Teresa, adds.

"She said that she was a porn star," John reveals. "She put that she makes $250,000 a year. She's 12, talking to men who are in their 20s. It's sick."

One night, Lacey crossed over from the virtual world into the real one when she met a 19-year-old man online. "She snuck out, got in the car with this young man, then they went into an open field and they had sex," Teresa says.

[AD]"He brought her back home, and she got locked out of the house. She was on the front porch when I woke up. Then it sank in: ‘How did you do this?' She said, ‘With my handheld portable game.' She amassed over 800 pages of chat records that were very graphic," John says.

"It is devastating. It's like having somebody punch you in the gut," Teresa says.

John says he now feels responsible for his tween's poor choices. "I gave my child a game, a toy, and I wasn't aware of all the possibilities that this toy could be used for," he says. "That's not my daughter. That's not my sweet, innocent 12-year-old."

Lacey's parents say they have taken drastic measures to keep tabs on her.

"Right now, I don't trust Lacey. We have the Lacey home security system," John says wryly.

Teresa elaborates. "When she goes to bed at night, there is an alarm on her bedroom door, and there is a baby monitor in her room. We can hear her on the baby monitor; it's right by her bed. If she leaves that room, we're going to know about it," she says.

[AD]"I have nothing. I sit in my room and read a book all day. I'm on lockdown," laments Lacey, whose face is not shown to protect her identity. She says the protective measures aren't just limited to her home. "I walk with my teachers. I don't walk with any of the kids that I'm not supposed to hang out with. For lunch, I have to sit by certain people."

"It shouldn't have to come to this. I believe Lacey still does lie," John says.

"It does anger me that my mom and dad don't trust me, because every time I'm asked a question, they think I'm lying. Sometimes I'm not lying," the girl says.

Turning to Lacey's parents, Dr. Phil says, "You guys had no idea that you could take a handheld video game and access the Internet with it."

"No, Dr. Phil, we didn't," John replies.

"Parents need to know that," Dr. Phil says. "She actually went to the point where she jumped from the virtual world to the real world, because she gave somebody her real address, and they came to her at her house. She snuck out at what time? Twelve o'clock? Something like that?"

"Yes, sir. It was after 11:30, 12:00 a.m., from looking at the chats," John answers. [AD]

Dr. Phil points out that Lacey's folks have cocooned her at home and at school. "You've got her so restricted, she doesn't have the opportunity to make a bad choice. She's kind of living in prison, essentially, and you know she's going to buck that eventually," he says. "Have you taken her to a therapist? Have you done anything to find out what's making her tick?"

"We've been to family therapy before. She doesn't like to talk. She won't answer questions honestly, or she just won't answer them at all," Teresa says.

Dr. Phil notes that John and Teresa may unknowingly be contributing to Lacey's behavior. "You two are on subsequent marriages. You have a combined eight children. She is the youngest. It's really easy to get lost in the crowd when you are the youngest of eight. It can get to the point where you really do crave attention," he explains. "She can go on the Internet and talk about the weather, or school or fashion, and nobody cares. She goes on the Internet and gets vulgar, and all of a sudden, she's being courted, groomed, attended to, talked to, pursued. It is a feeling of power."

Dr. Phil adds that at 12, Lacey's brain isn't finished growing yet. "The last part of the brain that grows, interestingly enough, is the neocortex, where the reasoning centers are housed. So her ability to predict the consequences of her actions is just almost zero," he says. "You've got to go beneath that and find out what's motivating her to be so hungry, and we have got to find other ways, constructive ways, for her to get attention " get attention for her talent, get attention for her intellect, her grades, her artwork, her music, her sports " ways that she can say, ‘I do have power in this world. I can get attention' without having to go down Danger Highway."