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Know the laws before you send the picture

When compared to a 2008 study, a study that will be published in the January 2012 issue of Pediatrics revealed that sexting in teens and tweens had dropped from 20 percent to 10 percent since 2008. Here, Cameron Henry, a sophomore in Bio Chemical Engineering, texts his location on his iPhone on Feb. 25, 2010, at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif. (Karen T. Borchers/San Jose Mercury News/MCT)

Written by Meaghan Bitters, Asst. Advertising Manager

Most teens have their own cell phones these days. And while texting teens may cause a lot of problems for high school and middle school teachers, texting also leads to another big problem for teens—sexting.

According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2013, 78 percent of teens, ages 12-17, have a cell phone.

According to nobullying.com, about 22 percent of teen girls and 18 percent of teen boys admitted to sending nude, or partially nude, images. About 15 percent of teens that have admitted to sexting, have sent the images to people they have never met.

There are many dangers and risks associated with sexting, especially when the receiver is someone the sender doesn’t know; however, should these teens be legally punished?

Until 2013, the state of Georgia prosecuted teen and adult sexting the same as child pornography, a felony offense.

Georgia legislation now states that any teenager possessing or creating a nude picture of themselves be charged a misdemeanor offense if:

“…the teen is at least 14, the person in possession of the image is not older than 17, and the person depicted in the image consented to both its creation and distribution. Otherwise, possessing or creating a sexually explicit image of a minor is a felony offense.” (Georgia Annotated Code section 16-12-100)

The penalties for Georgia teens convicted of a sexting offense aren’t as serious as they used to be.

According to criminaldefenselawyer.com, “Juvenile courts have the discretion to impose penalties that include probation, fines, community service, placement with a juvenile detention facility, or other punishments as the court deems appropriate.”

For adult teens convicted of a sexting crime in Georgia, the penalties are much more severe.

“Depending on the crime involved, an adult teen faces anywhere from up to a year in jail, to no less than 5 and no more than 20 years in prison. Fines for sexting crimes can also differ significantly, ranging from fines up to $5,000, to fines of not more than $100,000.” (Crime Defense Lawyer)

The teens accused of sexting crimes are not always criminally punished.

In February of 2015, a sexting scandal broke out in three Habersham County middle schools, a county outside of Atlanta.

According to nowhabersham.com, the sexting scandal surfaced when a teen girl sent a nude picture of herself to a male student using SnapChat.

The male recipient allegedly saved the picture and sent it to his friends.

This action led to a trend of students sexting each other.

Officer Jamie Carver of the Habersham Sheriff’s Office said the girls’ photos were “collected like baseball cards.” (nowhabersham.com)

In this case, the school system and the local sheriff’s office decided not to criminally charge any of the students.

The school system contacted the parents and then set up a series of assemblies to teach the students the dangers of sexting.

This case proves that not all sexting offenses are criminally prosecuted; however, that doesn’t mean it’s legal to do it.

If you ever engage in sexting, research the laws and risks before doing so and always make sure you know the recipient, make sure they are the legally accepted age and that they consent to receiving the content.

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