Sexting and Teens

There is a new trend among teens and cell phones called sexting.

Sexting isn’t the harmless fun that some teens may think it is. Sexting is a very serious issue that parents need to become educated about.

What is sexting?

‘Sexting’ is defined as the act of sending sexual images of ones-self via mobile phone. (Cell phone)

According to “The national campaign to prevent teen and unwanted pregnancy,” results from a survey showed that 21% of teen girls and 18% of teen boys have sent/ posted nude or semi-nude images of themselves. (You can read the PDF of their findings at Sex and Tech.)

These are US statistics. I couldn’t find any for Canadian statistics. I’m assuming though that just as many Canadian teens are undoubtedly sexting too.

Both parents and teens needs to be aware of the potential dangers of sexting.

What teens don’t realize is that they are breaking the law. In the US it is illegal to take, send or be in possession of an “indecent photograph” of someone under 18.

There have been several cases in the US where teens have faced child pornography charges as the result of distributing photos of them-self to their friends.

In Canada, according to a March, 2009 article published by Macleans magazine
“The Supreme Court says that minors can possess sexual images of themselves and others in consensual activity, but when distributed, it becomes child pornography.”

Toronto criminal lawyer Frank Addario says “If you have an image of a naked teen zipping around the Internet, a police officer somewhere is going to see it and lay a charge. Charges would then be against the minor who distributed it, not the minor who’d created the photograph,” reports Maclean.

(Source: The sexting scare.)

What do you think? Should sexting be treated as criminal behavior?

I don’t think a child who partakes in sexting should be charge for distribution or possession of child porn. Charging them with such an offense is a bit strong. However, I don’t feel that the act should go unpunished. There should be penalties set in place for minors caught sexting.

According to the Chicago Tribune, “The Illinois State Senate passed a bill that would limit penalties for those under 18 who distribute nude or sexually explicit photos via computer or cell. Offenders would not face criminal charges. Instead it would be classified as a misdemeanor, and minors would be sent to juvenile court for counseling and possible community service. The bill also does not make it illegal for minors to send or receive such photos to each other, as long as they don’t make it into the hands of a third party.”

At least 16 states have introduced or are considering bills or resolutions aimed at “sexting.” (More info at 2010 Legislation Related to “Sexting“)

In this video, child advocate John Walsh talks about some of the negative consequences of sexting and gives parents advice on how to talk to their children about sexting.

Parents please monitor your child’s cell phone very closely. Also check their Facebook and other social networking accounts for inappropriate images. Talk with your child about the dangers of sexting and the potential legal consequences.

For more information on sexting go to wiredsafety.org

In Canada, there has been a course set up by the ‘Canadian Centre for Child Protection’ called “TextED”, which is a three-part course that will be taught to Grade 7 students to teach them the potential dangers of sexting.(TextEd.ca)

textED.ca

Australia’s state government also launched an education campaign recently to combat sexting.

Now is your turn to speak out:

How should teenagers be punished if “sexting” goes too far? Do you feel criminal charges should be laid or that a new “teen” law should be created and put in place?

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