National Teen Dating Awareness Month: Legal Quandry of Sexting

A resolution passed by the United States Senate this month focuses on the burgeoning issue of teen dating violence. Disturbing trends include one in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. The resolution stated that 1 in 10 high school students has been hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend of a girlfriend.

Not only do teens have to deal with the above issues; but a new danger is lurking out there: I.E. 'Sexting'.

Jessica Logan 18 years old was found hanged in her bedroom. Months before she sent nude photos of herself to her boyfriend and yep you guessed it, when they broke up he distributed them for all the world to see. Jessica was of course harassed, called a slut and a whore--she became miserable, depressed and a became an outcast at school.

Jessica's mother was unaware of the extent of her daughter's anguish and only found out about her daughter's despair after getting letters from school about her absences. Her mother began driving her to school but she still skipped classes. Jessica told her mother that she would always hear---"Oh, that's the girl who sent the pictures--she's just a whore".

A thirteen year old girl from Florida was also found hanged after relentless taunting at school after she sent a nude photo of herself to a boy she liked and another girl used his phone to forward the picture to other students.

The harsh reality of 'sexting' not only can lead one to taking their life but also legal consequences.

Many states are having to deal with the real life issues of whether to charge teens with possession and distribution of child pornography. By definition if someone possesses or disseminates nude photos of anyone under the age of 18 it is considered child pornography---There is no consent issue.

An 18 year-old Florida teen was sentenced to 5 years probation and must register as a sex offender for sending nude pictures of his you know what to his 16 year-old girlfriend, who after a fight promptly distributed his 'package' to the student body. The teen is now a convicted felon and must register as a sex offender.

Last year in Virginia two teens were charged with solicitation and possession of child porn after they sought and received nude photos of juveniles, including an elementary school student.In Pennsylvania, three girls who sent photos and the four boys who received them are all being charged with child pornography.

An interesting case is currently being heard in a Federal appeals court in Pennsylvania. The court may end up deciding for the first time whether teens can be prosecuted for 'Sexting' This pending decision could have national ramifications on deciding once and for all whether the rage of 'sexting' arises to criminal intent.

• 20 percent of teens claim they have posted/sent nude or semi-nude picture of themselves.

• 40 percent of teens are sending or posting sexually suggestive messages.

• 50 percent of 12 year-olds have cell phones.

• Over 40 percent of teen girls state they feel pressure from boys to send and post sexually suggestive messages and images.

As you can see the above case examples are just a small smattering of legal issues confronting our criminal justice system. Decisions teens make obviously will have life-long ramifications not only legally but also personally. Privacy is a moot point and as one can see nude images will be passed around. There is no changing your mind once it gets into cyberspace. Potential employers, college recruiters, teachers, coaches, friends, enemies and strangers will find your so-called private pics. Even if you delete a so-called obscene photo there is no telling of who has already copied it and stored it for a rainy day.

Some states are debating whether 'sexting' arises to the legal issue of child porn and have instituted new laws reducing 'sexting' cases to misdemeanors which will be handled in Juvenile courts. The ongoing debate will continue as to whether 'sexting' arises to charging teens with a felony and essentially branding them for life. Is 'sexting' simply harmless fun--perhaps,but for some there are tragic consequences that have led to suicides and imprisonment.

Sxt-Dwt-Cby Sounds like a line from Robin Williams Good Morning Vietnam are the new buzz words for the decade with major life-long ramifications.

Can you image a modern day Leave it To Beaver show with June telling Ward--- Gosh- I'm so worried about the Beav--I sneaked a peek at his cell phone and saw pictures of Judy and Larry Mondello that floored me. Eddie Haskell would have loved today's teen scene. Remember when it was big news to pass a note to a boy or girl you liked.

Oh The Good Ole Days.