Warning: The Dangers of Sexting

05/01/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

So does sexting -- sending sexually explicit messages or pictures over those pocket-sized connectivity machines that I think the young kids refer to as "cell phones" -- really happen? Is it a big deal? Yes. And yes.

Apart from finally being able to eviscerate my wallet of the string of fake ID personalities I have adopted over the years, my 21st birthday brought along another interesting gift. "Happy birthday babe :-)," read the text on the screen, but that wasn't really what I was paying attention to. My eyes were fixated on the perfectly tanned canvas of skin spanning from neck to feet. Perfectly tanned, perfectly nude skin. Happy birthday, indeed.

When I finally got a big kid phone (read: Smartphone) this past Thanksgiving, the guy at the Verizon store was successfully able to transfer over my contacts and messages. However, my pictures couldn't be transferred. I worked hard for that birthday picture though and I wasn't ready to give up that easily. "There's no way you can get the pictures?" I pleaded.

"Well, I could go in the back and try again."

"I'll pass." It was clear that this was a common occurrence at the Verizon store. He wouldn't have been able to get those pictures to my new phone. He knew this, I knew this. This guy just wanted to see what kind of freaky pics I had stored on my SIM card. Sorry, buddy, not your birthday. But this is why sexting is something to be concerned about.

Ask Pete Wentz, Vanessa Hudgens, even Snooki how fast cell phone pictures become the latest headline on Gawker or PerezHilton. I didn't really need to know the level of maintenance Vanessa Hudgen's provides for her nether regions (well-trimmed if you happen to be curious though), but a quick Google search can show me Vanessa "breaking free" from her clothes and High School Musical goody-two-shoes image. Cell phones aren't like Vegas. What happens on them doesn't stay - it gets forwarded to the frat bros, camp friends, co-workers, etc. Or a huge chunk of the graduate school students of a business school. Oops, maybe you should have double-checked that address field.

It took all but three seconds for the group of guys I asked about sexting to start talking to me about the pictures they'd received. People weren't shy to show off their inboxes. Inappropriate? Yes. Inexcusable? Not really. Sure it was implied, but the senders never said what the recipient could or could not do with their sext (I promise to never use that word ever again). They also didn't say "do with this as you will" though. The other day my friend's phone accidentally called his girlfriend's while they were having sex. Obviously, she didn't answer her phone (so you can deduct from this that my friend's girlfriend is not Paris Hilton), so the phone went to voice mail. Guess what got recorded. Guess how I know about it. Yeah, I heard that message. In his defense he had permission to play it to me from her. People that write about sex tend to get more information from people than they bargain for. Or ask for.

What should be private becomes public when it's so easily distributed or displayed. A girl sent her nude pictures to the entire hockey team of my friend's high school. What did she think would happen? I'd be damned if the nerdy kid in the back of Spanish class didn't have that picture forwarded to him through the ever-growing grapevine. It's a slippery slope so if you don't want Joe Schmo who parks his car next to yours at your dorm to know about that beauty mark on your inner thigh, maybe reconsider sending John Doe that picture you took in the bathroom.

It's a good feeling to open up a message and see that someone has sent you something I'm sure they reserve for only a few people/hockey teams. Hell, it's even liberating to take the pictures. People used to solely do this with webcams, but with a camera and a viewer in virtually every pocket in America at any time there's no need to schedule a web cam sesh. Just point, click, and send. Instant nude pics. You can add water if you want, just try not to get it on your phone... But know this: Once it's out there you can't get it back, but to be honest, a happy birthday is best delivered with the flash on and the flesh out...