We are no longer in the age of childhood innocence. With the advances in technology, even today’s youth is armed with an array of electronic devices such as cell phones, tablets, and even laptops. What all these devices have in common is that they allow children to access the world through the internet. The internet can be a great educational tool, but it can also be a dangerous trap. In recent times, we are seeing an increase in the sexualization of children way before their time. Electronic devices are usually at the center point of this conversation in that they introduce the child to sexual topics and help them reach out to potential abusers.
Nowadays almost all devices have a camera that allows for the real time transmission of photos through social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. This allows kids to take pics of themselves, away from the view of their parents, and share them with whomever they please. It also means that potential child abusers can send graphic pics of their own to minors. What a lot of people don’t realize, is that whenever you receive nude or sexual photos from a minor, you are violating federal laws prohibiting child pornography. For example, if you were in California texting with a teen in Ohio, you could be charged and you would need a Sacramento criminal lawyer.
Many states also have laws in effect that can land adults in trouble for interacting this way with a child online. In some places, an offender can be punished even harsher if the child is below a certain age.
Is Sexting Really Pornography, or Something More Innocent?
The role of sexting in the area of child pornography has been the center of much debate. You may have heard of one well known case where three teenage girls were held in violation of federal law for sharing nude photographs of thems
elves with other minors. A similar case happened with three male subjects in Macomb. Three male students went to the house of a fifteen-year-old girl and engaged in sexual acts with her while another male filmed it all. One of the three then put the video on social media and it came to the attention of other students. This video was created on a cell phone and was likely uploaded using the same device. Although it is technically not sexting (or sending a nude text message to another) it falls in the same realm as such activity. In the case involving the three young men, they were put on probation by the court and prohibited from using electronic devices. The case involving the three girls had a different outcome altogether. Each one of the girls made a claim to freedom of speech under the First Amendment, and they were found not guilty. It goes to show how complicated these cases are and why more legal analysis is needed to address technology in the future.
It’s Not a Universal Problem
States differ greatly in whether they consider sexting to be a crime. New Jersey says it is a crime. However, neighboring Pennsylvania doesn’t think so. Even in states where sexting is a crime, many times the punishments are not very harsh. Most states try to use diversion programs to teach kids about the dangers of sexting and how to avoid getting in trouble in the future.Perhaps education is the real key to getting kids to avoid sexting, by showing them the long term effects of acts which they think are funny or just embarrassing at the time.
Could Educational Programs Help Out More?
Under the standard of Megan’s Law, sexting is a considered a serious sex crime. This means that those who are caught sexting to minors can end up registering as sex offenders with their local police department. Members of your local community will also have to be notified that you engaged in a sexual act with a minor. One exception may exist where teens sext to each other. Some states do not hold this as a crime. Teens are especially susceptible to violating laws against sexting because they are likely to send such messages as jokes or as romantic gestures. As discussed above, some diversion programs may work to educate kids about the true danger behind texting. These types of programs can make teens think twice before engaging in this type of behavior. In reality, it’s probably impossible to erase sexting from the face of the earth. It is equally as hard to catch every instance of sexting and to track down the offenders in a reasonable span of time. Due to the difficulties in enforcing sexting laws, the best approach is to keep educating the youth about how this crime affects others.