Should teens who ‘sext’ face child porn charges?

Posted on: 7:27 pm, November 26, 2013, by , updated on: 08:57am, November 27, 2013

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Police are concerned with a growing trend among teens. Sexting is an issue affecting students, schools and citizens, according to Albemarle Police.

Inappropriate pictures forwarded to students create additional cases for the possession and distribution of child porn. Law enforcement and prosecutors want to send a strong message that not only is this harmful to all involved, it’s also illegal.

Police in Albemarle said they’ve investigated seven cases over the last six weeks. They also believe other unreported cases are out there.

After hearing about concerns from Albemarle officials, CBS 6 checked with other localities in Central Virginia to get their take on the issue.

Prosecutors in Chesterfield and Henrico acknowledge the issue exists and said they’re looking for ways to raise awareness among teens and parents.

Chesterfield mom Patricia Davis knows there is a growing concern about teens and sexting. She said she’s doing all she can to make sure her 15-year-old daughter and her friends don’t get involved.

“That’s why I try to have open communication with her. Some people might think I’m being overprotective, but I do check her phone. I have to be aware of what she’s doing,” Davis added.

Davis’ daughter Nia said she has seen first-hand what teens who engage in sexting go through.

“Some are embarrassed, some switch schools. Other people don’t care about it and continue to do what they normally do. If it happened to me I wouldn’t want to go to school. I would be embarrassed. That’s why you shouldn’t do it,” Nia explained.

Law enforcement and prosecutors in Chesterfield and Henrico want more parents to follow Davis’ lead. They said the problem of teens texting racy pictures to other teens is on their radar.

Often times teens find themselves sending the pictures to a boyfriend or girlfriend, but when the relationship ends, those pictures end up in the hands of other people.

Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor said there is a dialogue going on among members of the Virginia Criminal Justice Committee. She said the conversation is expected to continue in January when the General Assembly resumes.

Taylor said they must devise a statute to deal with teens who sext. Currently a teen sending or receiving racy texts could find themselves facing a child porn production or possession charge, a felony.

“While the legal community works on this issue, my office is committed to the angle of prevention by discussing with young people the seriousness of photos and video and the lasting impact a spontaneous, yet poor decision can have on one’s future,” Taylor said.

Prosecutors in Chesterfield and Henrico said they have not yet pursued felony child porn charges against teenagers who sext.

In Albemarle, police, the school system and the Commonwealth’s Attorney are partnering to educate the community about sexting. There will be a special community forum for parents and students on Monday, December 2 at Monticello High School from 7 -8:30 p.m.

Officials there offer these tips for parents.  They believe being proactive now will prevent future sexting cases in their community.

They encourage parents to talk with children about the consequences of sexting, saying don’t wait until an incident happens before doing so.

Also, remind your teens that once an image is sent, it can never be retrieved and they will lose control of it.

Monitoring phone use is also a suggestion. Parents are encouraged to look for clues such as teens hiding their cell phones, closing down the computer when you’re in the room, and abnormal texting times.

Parents and guardians are also encouraged to report to law enforcement any nude or semi-nude images that their child receives.

2 comments

  • Bizzy says:

    this is how stupid lawmakers are.they know kids do it anyway.juvenile prisons will need to be built and privatized and another stream of revenue is brought in.

  • shawn says:

    yeah theres not much teens cant get away with nowadays.The system and laws are so outdated.We have 50-75 year olds making laws and they don’t even know the world has changed and police forces that have gotten lazier then teens themselves.

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