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Sexting Laws for Minors – A Discussion

November 26, 2020 • by James Lambka

Minors may send nude photographs to someone they know, without giving it much thought. However, they’re not aware that transferring and viewing sexually explicit material of a subject who is minor, can be considered to be child pornography, and there can be serious legal consequences to this.

What is Sexting?

Sexting, the act of sending or forwarding sexually explicit photos or videos (of the sender themselves) is quite common among young people these days. As smartphones become more commonplace among today’s youth, the problem of minors sending nude photos arises.

Criminal Liability and Issues Regarding Sexting by Minors

There are some states that have enacted laws to differentiate between sexting by minors, and child pornography.

This discussion is important since rates of sexting among minors are somewhere in the range of 4 to 25 percent.

There are a lot of problems with minors sexting. It is also illegal, often for the sender as well as the recipient. In Michigan for example, sexting carries serious consequences. Enticement of a minor (under 18) to pose for a photo is a 4-year felony (MCL 750.145a).  Sending such a photo is a 7-year felony (MCL 750.145c(3)).

Another issue with sexting is that images or videos distributed via the internet can quickly become permanent. For minors, this can have devastating consequences. The images and videos are out there on the internet for all to see.

Legal Cases Against Minors Engaged in Sexting

A Florida high school student was convicted of sending child pornography, leading to a 5-year probation and requirement to register as a sex offender. The student had forwarded a photo of his girlfriend of two years to others after an argument. Even though he had acquired the photo through his girlfriend, the act of forwarding it led to him being convicted.

There is another case where a 14-year-old girl was asked to take a picture of three of her friends engaged in sexual activity on the school football field. She took the picture, with the conset of everyone in it. She later deleted it from her phone. However, one of minors in the picture got into trouble in school for cheating, and was asked to produce her phone to the principal. The image was found and handed over to police, leading to the photographer being charged with distribution of pornography, while the subject charged with possession of pornography.

Both of the students have been expelled from school. However, the person who asked the photographer to take the picture did not get into any legal trouble.

Vlog Discussion

In today’s vlog, we talk about the sending of naked photographs via a cell phone.  While we obviously leave the moral decisions to the user, the information that we think important to understand about this topic is that children are not excluded from criminal liability for doing so.  A recent case from the Washington Supreme Court found that a minor can have criminal liability for sending a picture of his private parts via text message.  Please review our video if you have teenage children so that you can be informed of this law and decide if you want to address this topic with your own kids.

 

 

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