The penalties for the proscribed behavior vary widely by state. Rhode Island prohibits (1) consensual sex between a minor between 14 and 16 and a person who is 18 or older and (2) sexual contact or penetration with a minor under 14 under any circumstances.
This is called the “age of consent.” These laws are meant to protect minors from being manipulated or forced into sex with older people. Powell Most parents today are warning their teenagers about the dangers of sharing sexually explicit images of themselves with others by cell phone or computer, also known as sexting. His parents also suffered due to the significant legal expenses they incurred and they will have to spend more money hiring an attorney to get his record expunged. Perhaps even more troubling is that if the teens had actually engaged in sex, rather than sexting, they would not have been charged. Patricia Reaney, , Reuters (July 2, 2012, PM), USL2E8I26PF20120702. In the age of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, sexting is a modern day form of flirting or adolescent sexual exploration that teens don’t think is harmful. Reviewing how other states have responded might be a good place to start.The behavior is not only inappropriate, but it also exposes teens to potential embarrassment, humiliation, and further victimization if the photos are disclosed to third parties without their consent. Because the state does not have a sexting specific law, the conduct is typically prosecuted under laws prohibiting child pornography and obscenity. In September 2015, two teenagers in Fayetteville, North Carolina were each charged with felony child pornography for sending naked selfies to each other when they were both age 16. Because the child pornography statutes define a “minor” as a person under 18, 16- and 17-year-olds can simultaneously be considered victim and perpetrator. In North Carolina, at age 16, teens can legally consent to engage in sexual intercourse but if they exchange sexually explicit photos, they commit a felony. A different study by researchers at Drexel University found that 28 percent of college students reported sexting as minors. Some States Already Have Separate Teen Sexting Laws The emergence of teen sexting has caused many states to consider whether laws primarily intended to protect children from adult sexual predators should be used to prosecute the minors themselves. Georgia law classifies sexting as a felony depending on the facts of the case. He was teased by other students at school who called him a “felon” and was denied college football scholarships due to his probation, although he ultimately received a partial scholarship. Teens Although research varies, a 2012 study of nearly 1,000 high school students in Texas found that about 30 percent of them admitted sharing a nude photo by text or email, and 31 percent had requested one from someone else. The fourth state, Nebraska, treats all sexting as a felony. How they address this issue will likely be the source of serious debate. In the Fayetteville case, the high school senior who was criminally charged for sexting his girlfriend was suspended from his football team where he had played quarterback. Paul “Skip” Stam of Apex told a reporter he was not yet convinced that North Carolina needs a sexting law. Despite these concerns, most lawmakers would probably concede that consensual teen sexting is different than child pornography.