Sexting is a hot topic today. Webster defines sexting as “the sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone.” This definition is a bit narrow, however. Sexting is a multi-platform activity now, utilizing many forms of social media including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat. When sexting occurs between consenting adults, the behavior is not criminal, but it is risky — just ask celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence whose nude photos to her boyfriend were hacked and distributed on the Internet without her permission. Your Denver personal injury attorney explains that when sexting occurs between minors, it is a crime and it is very risky behavior.
Exploitation or Experimentation?
Like many states, Colorado does not have legislation that specifically addresses teen sexting. Because possessing and/or sending nude photos of someone under 18 is a crime (even if it is of yourself), teens who sext can be charged with very serious crimes in the absence of laws specific to texting. Colorado’s law against Sexual Exploitation of a Child and its law on Internet Crimes are the two most commonly used to prosecute sexting offenders, both of which are felony offenses.
But is teen sexting exploitation or experimentation? Based on recent studies about teen sexting, as well as investigations into recent sexting scandals in several high schools throughout the U.S., certain conclusions can be reached: (1) sexting is incredibly common among teens; (2) teens do not comprehend the potential negative consequences of sexting, such as their photos being forwarded to unintended recipients; (3) teens are not embarrassed about sexting; and (4) teens are only embarrassed when they are caught. Although technically, the teens are committing crimes when they sext, it does not seem that they are being exploited in most circumstances. Sexual experimentation, along with the hallmark of adolescence, seems to be the more appropriate description.
Sexting as a Form of Bullying
Your Denver personal injury attorney emphasizes that there are circumstances where teens get exploited through sexting. This is where understanding the potential consequences of posting a nude, compromising photo or video of yourself needs to be understood. When that post is forwarded to unintended recipients, or worse yet, put on the Internet or YouTube, it can be devastating to the person in the post. Such cyber-bullying is particularly vicious since many times the girls are pressured to sext in the first place and then bullied by having the post distributed to their peers. Tragically, some girls have committed suicide under just such circumstances.
Equally as dangerous is the risk that a nude photo will fall into the hands of a child sex offender. Predators and child traffickers troll the Internet in search of child pornography and pictures of minors that they then try to find.
What Can be Done?
The first and best way to protect teens from the perils of sexting is to educate them. Teens need to know first and foremost that sexting is a crime at their age. Also, they must understand that there is never really a way to know where that nude photo will end up and compromising photos could ruin their chances for college scholarships, job opportunities and future careers. Predators are real, and they are looking for photos and the girls in the photos.
Another way to protect teens is to educate parents on all the forms of social media that teens use and the ways to monitor them. As any parent knows, however, monitoring a teens’ behavior only goes so far. Communication is the key to knowing what is really going on in a teenager’s life.
If you would like more information on Colorado law and teen sexting, or if you know a teen at risk for cyber-bullying and want information on your legal options, contact Jordan Levine at the Levine Law Firm today.