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Teen Sexting and the Law

With cellphones, tablets and the overwhelming influx of technology within easy reach of teens these days, the temptations for bad behavior seem constant. More than ever, we are seeing teens unknowingly breaking the law by sending inappropriate images to others.

With the increase of teen sexting is a rise in the criminal prosecution involving these cases. First and foremost, it is up to us, the parents, to explain that while these acts are highly inappropriate, they are also illegal. Punishment for sending these images can ruin your child’s future with life-changing consequences.   

What the Law Says

Currently, the law reads that if you, under the age of 18, send nude or inappropriate photos of yourself, you could be guilty of distributing child pornography. Depending on the circumstances, this can be a state or federal crime.

While federal prosecution of a minor for sexting is not the norm, 18 U.S.C. 2251 does allow for prosecution of parents who allow their children to send such images. If tried as an adult in State Court, the crime of sexual exploitation is a Class D felony. In addition to breaking the law, many teens will now face a mandatory and immediate expulsion from his or her school.

Why We Should Educate Our Teens

As with any issues related to our children, education is the most important step. The more parents educate their children on the impact sexting could have on themselves and others, the less likely they will be to participate in such conduct.

Along with educating your children, we, as parents, must educate ourselves on the technology available to our teens and how they are utilizing this technology. WMC Action News 5 in Memphis, Tennessee, recently ran a story about hundreds of teens from Arkansas, Missouri and Virginia that have been arrested for sending inappropriate messages. This report also contains a list of the most popular apps teens are using to send photos (Snapchat, Wickr, ooVoo).

Because our children are so comfortable with the internet, they fail to consider the ramifications of their online actions. Teens and young adults tend to forget that while these apps allow the photos to “disappear” after they are sent, the possibility exists of the receiving party screenshoting the image to keep forever and use as they please.

The laws surrounding teen sexting are ever-changing, and we anticipate that the Tennessee Legislature will carve out more specific laws related to this conduct. In the meantime, we must educate and monitor our children even more as the technology is evolving at an alarming rate. Every day our children are facing temptations for unadvisable, and possibly illegal, behavior.

When You Need Legal Services

If you ever have a legal question, or just need legal advice, know that The Chiozza Law Firm and Your901Law.com are here to help. Our office, conveniently located in Downtown Memphis, is the place we call home, welcoming walk-ins with no appointment necessary. If you feel the need to discuss a new or pending legal matter, please know that our doors are always open.  If you can’t make it to the office feel free to call 901-526-9494, or for emergencies email Brian Chiozza, brian@chiozzalaw.com.

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Posted by Brian Chiozza at 3:25 PM
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