Teens who send sexually explicit selfies might find themselves in uncomfortably hot water with the law.
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Read-Think-Respond: Should teens be legally allowed to text explicit photos of themselves? Why or why not? [comment here]
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That's because in most states, while it's legal for teenagers close in age to have consensual sex, if those same teens create and text sexually explicit images of themselves -- known as "sexting" -- they could be violating child pornography laws. In fact, most states have not updated their decades-old child pornography laws to include exceptions for when teenagers are the "perpetrators."
Both existing child pornography laws and more recent state sexting-specific legislation criminalize a trend that's more common among teenagers than many adults might choose to believe. As this Above the Noise video notes, one study on sexting behavior found that more than 50 percent of college students reported that they had, as minors, exchanged sexually explicit text messages.
The issue was thrust into the national spotlight in 2015 when two 16-year-olds in North Carolina who were dating and had sent nude selfies to each other were charged with multiple counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. Both of the teens involved were considered perpetrators and victims. If convicted, they would have been labeled sex offenders for decades. The charges were eventually reduced to misdemeanors, and the teens were put on probation for a year.