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    Pennsylvania teens charged with child pornography for texting

    Date: 01.15.09 | by Judge Tom.

    States are cracking down on the recent ‘sexting’ trend – where users send nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves by text message.


    Photo by Jezz (Flickr)

    Three high school girls [ages 14 and 15] at Salem High School in Pennsylvania sent photos of themselves to three boys [ages 16 and 17].  A school administrator discovered the pictures when a phone went off in class and it was confiscated. 

    All six students were charged in January, 2009, with possession of child pornography.  The crime is a felony and could mean jail time if found guilty.  Hearings were held in juvenile court and the teens entered guilty pleas to lesser charges.  They were sentenced to probation and community service.

    Whether done to flirt or just having fun, anyone thinking about downloading sexually explicit or suggestive photos should think twice.  These pictures could have easily been posted on the Internet which, as you know, has a worldwide audience and an eternal life.

    Do you have any concerns about your safety online when sending inappropriate material?  Have you thought about strangers that may end up with your pictures?  Or maybe a future boss or school coming across them when you’re applying for college or a job?  Talk about these possibilities with your friends and parents.  It may be exciting at the time, but there could be unintended and lasting consequences.  

    stacysnyderFor an example, consider the case of 25-year-old Stacy Snyder.  She was studying to become a teacher in Pennsylvania, and because in part of a photo of her as a “drunken pirate”on Facebook, her college refused to grant her a teaching certificate.  She took the case to court and in December, 2008, lost.     

     If a girl sends a provocative picture of herself to her boyfriend, is she guilty of child pornography or is she engaging in self-expression?  Some argue that sexting is the modern-day version of “playing doctor” or “spin-the-bottle.”  What do you think?

    Know more about sexting and the possible consequences.

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    3 Comments subscribe to these comments.

    • Mario
      Sat, 17 Jan 2009 at 10:01

      Come on this is just stupid

      Judge Tom’s response:
      Dear Mario: stay tuned for much more on this subject. With the explosion of texting and some sexting incidents, prosecutors around the country are looking at ways of dealing with this issue. The felony child pornography crimes may not be appropriate in most of these cases. So legislatures in some states are considering changing the laws when sexting is involved.

    • Devin
      Thu, 26 Feb 2009 at 07:05

      Honestly! If the person is also under 18 I don’t see a problem with it!!!!! Also, the school has NO right going through a student’s cell phone at any time. Invasion of privacy much???

      Judge Tom’s response:
      Thanks, Devin, for your thoughts. Both state and federal laws govern what’s appropriate material on and off the Web. Child pornography laws are specific, carrying heavy penalties for violations.

      Regarding a school’s authority to search a student’s cell phone, generally if reasonable suspicion exists that a crime has or is being committed, or school rule violated, the administration may search a phone. Many schools are creating policies where the student will be asked for permission first, or the parent contacted for permission. However, in the event of an emergency or imminent risk to the school or student body, the search may be conducted without permission or a search warrant.

    • Amber
      Tue, 23 Jun 2009 at 04:05

      I think that sending inappropraite pictures over texting should be taking at serious matter. I wouldn’t want my pictures or my body posted everywhere. I think it is not “cool” to have anyone send pictures that reveal anything you dont want to have more than one peoples see it. You never know how many people are going to see that!

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