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“Sexting” Leads to Serious Consequences for Teens

January 17, 2009 09:00 AM
by Cara McDonough
Sending racy photos via cell phone may not be wise, but some say charging six Pennsylvania teens with child pornography is too harsh.

Texting That Went Too Far

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After taking and sending nude or semi-nude photos of themselves to male students, three female high school students are facing charges of manufacturing, disseminating or possessing child pornography, while the male students who received the pictures are facing charges of possession, reports MSNBC. Police said the girls who took the photos are 14 or 15 years old, and the boys who received them are 16 or 17.

The photos were discovered in October when school officials seized one of the boys’ cell phones when he was using it Greensburg Salem High School in Greensburg, Pa., in violation of school rules.

Police Capt. George Seranko said that authorities filed child pornography charges to send a strong message to other teens. "Once it's on a cell phone, that cell phone can be put on the Internet where everyone in the world can get access to that juvenile picture,” he was quoted as saying by MSNBC.

Sending such pictures via text message, a practice sometimes referred to as “sexting,” is more common than many might think, according to a nationwide survey conducted by the National Campaign to Support Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. According to the survey, about 20 percent of teens admitted to participating in sexting.

But even if teens are sending the photos in shocking numbers, Patrick Artur, a Philadelphia defense attorney who has handled many child pornography cases, believes charging the teens for photos they took themselves runs counter to current child pornography laws. “It’s clearly overkill,” he told MSNBC.

Pittsburgh news station WPXI reported that the mother of one of the boys accused in the sexting incident has spoken out, saying her son did nothing wrong. "This is going to ruin his life," she said. "My son did not know this girl. He had seen her around school, and it was texted to him. He did not take the picture."

Related Topics: Leaked Miley Cyrus photos

Even celebrities aren’t immune to the threat of private pictures being leaked. Teen star Miley Cyrus received criticism last year when hackers obtained provocative photos from her e-mail account and cell phone, and put them online.

The leaked photos were more bad news for Cyrus, who posed for controversial photos taken by Annie Leibovitz that appeared in the June edition of Vanity Fair magazine. Cyrus later said she was embarrassed by the photos, but according to some parents, bloggers and the Disney Corporation—which produces her television show—the damage to her image had been done.

Reference: Internet safety

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