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Teenagers and sexting

While many parents may not want to think about their teens taking or sending sexually explicit photos from their cellphones, the reality is that it does happen. If the person is underage, however, this behavior can be deemed a sex crime and come with lifelong consequences, including being labeled as a sex offender for life.

A survey of 1,280 teenagers and young adults by the American National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that one in five teenagers admitted to sending nude or semi-nude pictures. While most of those who admitted to sending the pictures said they sent them to a boyfriend or girlfriend, 39 percent of boys and 21 percent of girls ages 13 to 19 said they sent the pictures to people they were interested in "hooking up" with.

Many teens who have grown up in the information age where technology is a part of everyday life do not necessarily understand the seriousness of sending or dispersing these types of photos. Even if someone receives a nude picture of someone else that was unsolicited, if the subject of the photo is underage, the person receiving the picture can be considered in possession of child pornography. Those who take the pictures and send them to others or forward on pictures they have received can also be charged with distributing child pornography.

Because pictures transmitted over cellphones and texts are digital material, once they are out there they are around forever. If you or someone you know has been charged with a sex crime related to sending explicit text messages in Missouri, understanding how the laws apply to these situations and what the possible options are is an important first step.

Source: Paediatr Child Health, "Sexting: Keeping teens safe and responsible in a technologically savvy world" DK Katzman, accessed Jan. 22, 2015

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