Technology has made communication easier than ever before. It has made it possible to transmit and disseminate vast quantities of information in a matter of moments. Teenagers are embracing technology to communicate with their friends, boyfriends, and girlfriends. Unfortunately, many are finding themselves on the wrong side of the law.
Sexting is the transmission of sexually explicit messages and images. Because teenagers under the age of 18 are not adults, they can be charged with the possession and distribution of child pornography. It’s a growing problem that parents should discuss with their teens before law enforcement comes knocking on the door.
Recently, sexting became a serious issue at Canyon City High School in Colorado. Following tips submitted to the “Safe2Tell,” law enforcement officials discovered that hundreds of students were in possession of pornographic images. These images were of classmates and were shared throughout various grades at the school. In some cases, victims were as young as 8th grade.
Parents and teens should know:
- “Sexts” are considered child pornography even if they’re consensual.
- Manufacturing, possession, or distribution of child pornography is a felony crime.
- A conviction for possession or distribution of child pornography can result in jail time, lengthy probation, and the requirement to register as sex offender. This can make it difficult to get work, secure a lease, or obtain a college education.
What are the Penalties for Sexting?
In the past, many jurisdictions have been lenient on teenagers in possession of sexts from boyfriends/girlfriends. However, this is changing as the problem grows in size and scope. Under Minnesota Statute 617.246 & 617.247, it is illegal for individuals to manufacture, disseminate, or possess child pornography. Individuals convicted of these crimes can be sentenced to 7 years in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000 for a first offense. It doesn’t matter whether it was consensual, or that the parties involved are all minors.
How Serious is the Problem?
It’s estimated that up to 20% of teenagers have engaged in sending a sext, and that up to 33% of teenagers have received a sext. It is a common behavior that is growing in acceptance amongst adolescents. Many do not realize how quickly sexts can spread. For this reason, parents should discuss sexting with their children. It should be explained that it is a behavior that can have serious, long-term consequences. Having this difficult discussion now is better than dealing with the potential penalties through a Minneapolis assault lawyer later.