How Serious is Sexting?

After two interviews with cyber crime detectives the following updated information is very important for parents, educators and adults.

Sexting is the act of taking, possessing or disseminating nude or partially nude images via digital device and distributing same and is punishable under Federal Law. Title 18 USC 2252 and 2256. It is important to understand the law and what it states exactly and how it can affect children who are sexting (excerpts of the statutes at the end of article).

What does this mean and what do we teach children?

Law enforcement has been very forthright and clear to communicate taking an image of any sexual nature, possessing that image or distributing that image is punishable under federal law.

We want to teach children sexting is a very serious crime. Law enforcement is mandated by federal law to investigate every image that comes under the violation of the above statutes.

Are kids taking this seriously?

While children are not taking "sexting" seriously according to law enforcement they are tying up viable resources in local departments for the act of sexting. Continued investigations on sexting pull time and resources from local departments who are currently investigating cases of child molestation, abuse, pedophilia, child pornography and prevention of online predation.

We want to make very clear to our children they could potentially be charged with three felonies under the above statutes and each state has their own statutes which enforce the law as well.

We need to explain what actions your child "may take today" can have an incredible impact on their lives tomorrow. If convicted of a felony of child pornography, possession or otherwise, they have the potential to be added to the National Sex Offender Registry.

Charged with Sexting can be forever life-changing.

We need to explain very clearly if they were to be added to the registry, the ramifications of that event are forever life-changing. As adults, they will not be allowed to be within the specified distance of any public or private facility in which children are present.

Ask your children, do they plan to get married and have children? Tell them to think about this! If they were convicted of these potential felonies and added to the sex offender registry (there is a juvenile registry as well), they would never ever be able to participate in the lives of their children. No school events, no trick or treat on Halloween.

Halloween and Sex Offenders

By law registered sex offenders are required to put a sign out in front of their residence that tells children not to stop at that residence. They are required for the residence to be completely dark. Law enforcement in every community on Halloween personally visits every registered sex offender in their areas to make sure they are in compliance; otherwise they go back to prison.

Think about the ramifications of your son or daughter when they grow up get married and have children; they would never be able to participate in any of their children's events, no sporting events, no school events, no field trips, no parent teacher conferences on premises.

Why are kids sexting?

Girls receive pressure from guys. "Oh, come on, sext me." Girls say "oh, why not?" Well now we have very serious reasons why not! Apparently, the perception of law enforcement of why teens are not getting the message is because either they do not understand, or they do not care. What we as adults define in our lives as "private," teens may not see their privacy the same as ours. Therefore, that conversation needs to happen between parents and their children. What do they believe constitutes their privacy?

What to do

If you find images on your son's or daughter's cell phone or if your son or daughter receives inappropriate images, it is best to report immediately. If you wait, law enforcement has less opportunity to understand the potential innocent circumstances upon which the images came about.

What are the emotional consequences to youth if they become a victim of sexting?

1. Shame;
2. Embarrassment;
3. Humiliation;
4. Being bullied;
5. Harassment; and
6. potential suicide to name a few.

Excerpts from 18 USC 2252, 2252A and 2256

§ 2252. Certain activities relating to material involving the sexual exploitation of minors

"(a) Any person who-

(1) knowingly transports or ships in interstate or foreign commerce by any means including by computer or mails, any visual depiction, if-

(A) the producing of such visual depiction involves the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; and
(B) such visual depiction is of such conduct;

(2) knowingly receives, or distributes, any visual depiction that has been mailed, or has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce, or which contains materials which have been mailed or so shipped or transported, by any means including by computer, or knowingly reproduces any visual depiction for distribution in interstate or foreign commerce or through the mails, if-

(A) the producing of such visual depiction involves the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; and
(B) such visual depiction is of such conduct;"

§ 2252A. Certain activities relating to material constituting or containing child pornography

"(a) Any person who-

(1) knowingly mails, or transports or ships in interstate or foreign commerce by any means, including by computer, any child pornography;
(2) knowingly receives or distributes-

(A) any child pornography that has been mailed, or shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce by any means, including by computer; or
(B) any material that contains child pornography that has been mailed, or shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce by any means, including by computer;"

§ 2256. Definitions for chapter

(1) "minor" means any person under the age of eighteen years;
(2) "sexually explicit conduct" means actual or simulated-
(3) sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex;
(4) bestiality;
(5) masturbation;
(6) sadistic or masochistic abuse; or
(7) lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person; (subsection numbers do not reflect the same as in 18 USC 2256)."

Hopefully, this article has given adults, educators and parents enough ammunition to make the message very clear: "sexting" is a very serious crime.

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