Teen sexting: What are the laws?

Punishment for teens when it comes to sexting

SPOKANE, Wash. — If a teenager requests, sends, or receives sexually explicit images of a minor, even though they are a minor themselves, they could be charged with a felony under child pornography statutes.

A Cyberbullying Research Center study shared 1-in-8 middle school students had sent an explicit image of themselves to someone else at some point in their lifetime.  By the time they hit 17-years old, the study reports that statistic jumps to 1-in-5.

If convicted, they could be required to register as a sex offender. Although both Washington and Idaho laws make no distinction between adults and juveniles, a teen will usually be charged through the juvenile justice system.

The intent of these laws are to keep explicit photos of minors off the internet, even if they are sent between minors.

While Washington and Idaho do not have any specific teen sexting laws, twenty other states do.

The Governor of Idaho, Butch Otter, thinks sexting by teens should not be treated like child pornography. He signed a bill in April that would charge teenagers with a misdemeanor, instead of a felony, if they are caught sending sexually explicit photos.  If the teen decides to distribute or repeatedly show the explicit content, the state has the right to charge a minor with a felony. 

A study done by Northeastern University found that a majority of young people don't know that sending a nude photo is considered child pornography and could land them in jail.

The study found 59%  of teens would have thought twice before sending nude photos if they knew of the legal consequences.

© 2017 KREM-TV


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