According to Harris Interactive, 17 million teenagers in the United States carry a cell phone device capable of taking photographs, sending short messages and -- the obvious -- making and receiving phone calls. Fifty-seven percent of teens say cell phones are key to keeping up with their social life.
But some teens are making a choice to use their cell phone for a dangerous and illegal trend -- sending pornographic photos of themselves through text messaging.
The act is known as "sexting," a practice that one in five American teenagers has engaged in according to a research poll by Chicago-based Teenage Reserch Unlimited. In order to engage in sexting, a teen needs two simple tools: A phone capable of taking photographs, and a cell phone plan capable of sending and receiving multimedia text messages.
The issue of sexting was thrust into the national spotlight after nude photos of "High School Musical" star Vanessa Hudgens were leaked onto the Internet after a hacker allegedly broke into her cell phone in 2007. Hudgens later apologized for the incident, which she considered a "lapse in judgment."
One year later, nude photos of Phillip Sherman and his wife were leaked onto the Internet after the Arkansas-native left his cell phone behind at a McDonald's restaurant.
"If you lose your phone, the pictures could end up in the wrong hands," the website MomLogic.com wrote in a recent blog entry on the topic. "Nothing is 100% secure. The only way to make sure nude photos of you don't leak is not to take them."
Jesse Logan was sixteen-years-old. She thought the nude photos she took with her cell phone would only be seen by her boyfriend. What she didn't realize is that the photos would spread throughout her Cincinnati-area high school after her and her boyfriend split up.
In May 2008, Logan offered herself to a local television station reporting on the dangers of sexting. Her message was simple: Texting naked photos has irreversible, long-term, damaging effects on everyone involved.
"I just want to make sure no one else will have to go through this again," she said in the television interview, appearing in silhouette to conceal her identity.
Logan was taunted and teased every day at school. She began skipping classes and suffered from depression.
"She was being attacked and tortured," Cynthia Logan, Jesse's mother, told NBC News. "She was vivacious. She was fun. She was artistic. She was compassionate. She was a good kid."
A good kid who made a choice that changed her life forever. Her dreams of studying design at the University of Cincinnati after high school ended on July 3rd, 2008, when Jesse Logan hung herself in her bedroom.
Since her suicide, five teens have been accused of spreading Logan's photos to other students. Cynthia Logan has exhausted six lawyers who launched unsuccessful campaigns to bring those responsible for spreading Logan's photos to justice.
The problem with sexting among teenagers is that many see the practice of sending nude photos to peers as no big deal, even routine in 21st Century socializing. To an innocent mind, sexting may sound like harmless fun between friends or couples; however, the consequences of sexting can be long-lasting, even criminal, to those who send and receive the explicit photos.
"Sending and/or receiving photos of a sexual nature will result in serious consequences that may involve the police and other authorities," Monica Brady, a mom-blogger formerly from Sacramento, says.