While reviewing some news articles, I stumbled across one discussing a hot topic or issue. The article was discussing teen sexting and the possible ramifications and implications of teenagers sending photos through text messages. At first thought, my moralistic gut was screaming “wait, what?” But eventually, my legal brain started to process, and then the comments and suggestions began to make sense, criminally speaking.
Let’s begin by first explaining and outlining the idea of teen sexting. Sexting in general is the use of a text message to engage in, discuss, and express sexual preferences, acts, desires, and opinions between individuals. Essentially, the term “sexting” has been invented over the years as there has been an increase in technological advancement. Teen sexting, therefore, involves individuals under the age of 18. This is where the predicament and issues of teen sexting lie.
The words themselves may not be of legal consequence when examining teen sexting issues; however, when an individual teen begins to send photos, videos or other types of multimedia to another individual teen (or anyone for that matter) the individual sender (and even receiver) could have potentially committed criminal and illegal activities.
The reason there is a possible criminal consequence behind photos, videos, or other types of multimedia depicting a teen is due to the laws and protections on child pornography. Pornography itself, as you may know, is legal and can be possessed by individuals of legal age (which is 18 years old); however, the individual depicted or the individual in possession must also be at or over the legal age.
Therefore, it becomes apparent why criminal consequences, convictions, and charges can and do extend from individuals engaging in sexting, at least when one or both of the individuals are under the age of 18.
Protect Your Children from Sexting
The term “sexting” is an informal expression for the sending of sexually explicit text messages. Sexually explicit text messages are an unfortunate by-product of the communications revolution of this current era. A sexually explicit text message could be sent in both SMS and MMS forms of text messaging. However, most cases involving sexually explicit text messages that depict pornographic images of children are of the multimedia messaging service form of cellular phone-based messages.
The circulation of unlawful pornographic images of children is mostly perpetrated by children themselves. As a result, teenagers with cell phones send each other sexting messages on their cell phones and get charged with distributing child pornography. Child pornography, in most jurisdictions, constitutes the sexually indecent portrayal of minors below the age of 18 in the nude or doing sexual acts.
Teen sexting is a problem that is more common than expected; approximately one in five teenagers admit to having participated in teen sexting. Most teenagers do not understand that the act is illegal because they are distributing sexually explicit images of themselves, among themselves. That is the case if they ever even consider the act of sexting as a form of child pornography in the first place.
Teenagers in New York, Alabama, and Wisconsin have already been arrested, convicted, or are facing child pornography charges for sending sexually explicit text messages. Teen sexting is a big problem of which every parent and teenager should be aware.
Sexting images depicting people above the age of the majority, 18, is legal. However, it is important to make sure that the person receiving the sexting message is of legal age to view pornographic images (usually 18 or 21, depending on the jurisdiction). Despite the legality of this act, one should exercise caution when choosing who to send a sexting message to.
Upon the reception of that image, it legally becomes the property of the recipient allowing him or her to do what he or she likes with the image; including posting them on the Internet. In lawsuits involving defamation, truth is a viable defense. Therefore, the act of posting a nude image on the internet implicitly consents to the publication of nude pictures as long as the pornographic image is not depicting anyone under 18 years of age.
Legal Age of Consent
This brings about another issue and point that should be made while discussing this topic, which is that the legal age of consent to engage in sex is 16 years old. This means that individuals 16, 17, or 18 can engage in legal sexual acts between one another, except in situations that bring about a showing of authority, mental incapacity, or otherwise found illegal by the criminal sexual conduct statutes. In the end, individual teens legally engaging in sex could potentially be found illegally creating, possessing, or distributing child pornography due to teen sexting. This theory also holds true for individuals not legally allowed or of age to engage in sex, but are engaged in teen sexting that involves the use of multimedia (i.e. child pornography).
The reason teen sexting becomes such a huge issue and concern is partially due to the comments and opinions noted above; however, there is still the concern of sex entering into a child’s or teenager’s life too early. Jurisdictions have recently taken an effort to educate and distribute some of the ideas discussed in this article, yet it remains with the children’s home and parents, teachers, relatives, etc. We must educate our young and reveal to them the possible consequences and repercussions if they are not acting appropriately within this new and fast pace digital world. Teen sexting can be a problem, and it can have major repercussions, so know the law, maintain your rights, and lawyer up.