Sexting May Place Teens at Legal Risk

Full story at NY Times

(Excerpted story from NY Times)

One in five teens may be a child pornographer risking life in prison — for the crime of taking and distributing naked pictures of themselves - also known as sexting.

The trouble begins with the dicey mix of teenagers’ age-old sexual curiosity, notoriously bad judgment and modern love of electronic sharing — especially of pictures they take with their digital cameras and cellphones. This mix went seriously sour in upstate New York this winter, when a boy misbehaving at a party took an explicit photo of himself with a cellphone and sent it to a girl in his class — high jinks known as “sexting.” She sent it to friends who sent it to friends until it reached 300 children.

Expect more of this. According to a recent study commissioned by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl.com, 20 percent of teenagers have taken nude or semi-nude pictures or videos of themselves and sent them to someone or posted them online. Most send these gifts to their boyfriend or girlfriend (69 percent) or someone they want to date or hook up with (30 percent).

But the trouble multiplies when the law gets involved. It’s illegal under federal and state child-porn laws to create explicit images of a minor, posses them or distribute them. These laws were drafted to address adult abuse of minors, but it turns out they don’t exempt minors who create and distribute images, even if the pictures are of them (making them, presumably, the victims). In fact, police and prosecutors in several states are going after creator-victims, including in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin. They may well win, if a 2007 Florida Court of Appeals case that ruled against a 16-year-old girl is any guide.

Losing children could be imprisoned or made pariahs for life. Mark Rasch, a former cybercrime prosecutor for the Justice Department, and now an information security and privacy consultant, says that a 16-year-old with a standard story -– she took a bunch of pictures of herself and sent them to a boy electronically in the hopes of seducing him -– could get life in federal prison under current sentencing guidelines. If she does manage to get out, she may have to register as a sex offender.

“Imagine in the year 2063, a 70-year-old woman having to post a notice that she is a registered sex offender because of a camera-phone picture she snapped of herself in 2009,” Rasch says. “The combination of poorly drafted laws, new technologies, draconian and inflexible punishments, and teenage hormones make for potentially disastrous results.”

Additional articles on Teen Sexting:

Teen Sexting - Youthful Prank or Sex Crime?

Teen Sexting and Suicide

What's the Matter with Teen Sexting?


Angie M. Tarighi has been teaching women’s self-defense for over 20+ years. She holds two black belts in Kempo & Combat Hapkido; is a certified Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) Instructor; is a certified International Police Defensive Tactics Instructor; is a certified Kid-Safe Network Agent; is a certified Women-Safe Network Agent; and a Reiki Master.