aNewDomain — Sexting, the act of sending illicit words, images or videos via text message, is highly prevalent in the U.S. and abroad. It’s also illegal, if you’re under 18.
That’s a real problem because about 20 percent of teens in the U.S. send revealing nudes to their friends, fans and partners via texts and apps. Teenagers don’t know that many of these actions are considered federal offenses, filed under child pornography laws, and that they could become registered sex offenders with just a text.
One example of this issue comes from a case in Virginia in 2014, where a young man was ordered to have a photo taken of his erect penis.
The State of Virginia wants — or wanted to — photograph a 17-year-old’s phallus. Manassas City police officers obtained a warrant authorizing them to take pictures of Trey Sims’ erect penis so they could match it to images the boy allegedly sent his girlfriend. Sims’ lawyers report that officers threatened to inject him with a chemical substance in order to induce the requisite arousal.”
In the end the police did not take the photos, but the case against Sims is still active, and it could require him to register as a sex offender.
Another situation was described in The Atlantic:
In October of last year, during an unrelated investigation, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department seized the cell phone of a 17-year-old boy. He had a 17-year-old girlfriend. ‘While our investigators went through the phone they saw there were photos of himself and another person on the phone,’ Sergeant Sean Swain told a local news outlet. ‘Simple possession having it on your cell phone is a charge itself, and if you should send it out to another person that is another charge.’”
The practice does not seem to make sense. Laws designed to protect teenagers and children from would-be predators are actually shaming them publicly and possibly committing them to a life tied to a single sext. This issue presents itself in certain states, like Virginia and North Carolina, and is less of an issue in others.
Regardless, a young person should not be legally considered a pedophile for life if they exchange consensual photos with a partner.
The Naked Truth
The issue of underage sexting is not confined to the U.S. The Naked Truth is an app that explains in plain English the “laws relating to unlawful sexual intercourse, child pornography, and indecent filming, and also features quizzes, case studies, and a guide to what can be done if unwanted images go viral, as well as a number of other interactive features.”
Since launching in October, 2014, in Australia, The Naked Truth has been downloaded more than 11,000 times.
Maybe they should develop a U.S. version of the app, because all the data shows that underage sexting is on the rise. See the infographic below.
For aNewDomain, I’m David Michaelis.
Featured image: Sexting by Pro Juventute via Flickr