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Is “sexting” a crime?

Posted in Misc Crime March 12th, 2009 @ 10:46 am

Everyone knows how teens love to text each other, but now the phenomenon is the practice of “sexting”. This is where a teen, even as young as 13, sends a nude or semi-nude photo via text message of themselves to another teen.

This growing trend seems to be exploding everywhere. For example, three teenage girls in Pennsylvania who allegedly sent a nude or semi-nude cell phone picture of themselves to their boyfriends; the boyfriends were then charged with child pornography. A Texas eighth grader who sent his football coach a nude picture and wound up in juvenile detention center. A 15-year-old Pennsylvania girl is facing child pornography charges for sending nude photos of herself to other kids. A 19-year-old Florida man was thrown out of college and has to register as a sex offender for 25 years because he sent nude pictures of his girlfriend to other teens. The examples seem to go on and on.

Approximately, 20 percent of teens admit to participating in “sexting” according to a nationwide survey by the National Campaign to Support Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. However, law enforcement is having a difficult time with the punishment for sexting. Is it considered child pornography, which is a felony, or is it just a youthful prank?

Some believe the punishment for teens sexting doesn’t fit the crime. A kid sending a racy picture is very different behavior than a pedophile forcing a toddler to perform a sex act on camera. Child porn laws were designed to catch pedophiles in their criminal acts. Many of these teens will tell you that they are just messing around and really don’t mean to harm anyone. It isn’t a crime if adults send nude photos out to their friends so why can’t teens to the same? As a result, many people feel “sexting” is a societal problem and not a criminal problem.

However, as a parent of a teen, you should be aware of your teen’s phone habits. Know who they are talking to; know what they are texting; and know what types of pictures they are sending over their phones. Make sure that they don’t fold under peer pressure. If all else fails, give your teens the same talk you received – “If everyone was jumping off the cliff, would you do it too?”

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