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February 18, 2014

Sexting can be considered child porn, so what penalties should kids face?

2-18-2014 Wisconsin:

Research shows one in five teens are sexting -- the sending of sexually explicit text or email messages.

WISN 12 News investigative reporter Colleen Henry looks into the problem facing parents, police and prosecutors -- what to do with kids caught sharing these explicit messages.

It's a digital world, which can change as quick as the click of a camera.

"I do think it has desensitized us to what we put out there. We share everything else. Why not share a picture of us?" University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee junior Emma Lundsten said.

UW-Milwaukee's sociology of sexuality class is a hotbed of content and conversation historically considered taboo.

"For me, sexting, it's not even taboo any more," freshman Amanda Storck.

The students don't condone it, but said sexting has become a mainstay of social interaction. Girls do it for attention.

"It's very confusing, especially at a younger age when all the girls are getting attention that are doing this," Lundsten said.

For guys, it's status.

"With their friends, at least, they're like, 'Look at me. Look at me, I'm this guy who's getting a lot of pictures,'" freshman Maggie Smith said.

They've all been asked.

But when the kids in the pictures are under age, the law may see those so-called sexy pictures as child pornography, and the kids who take and share them, child pornographers.

Sexting kids have made headlines all across the Milwaukee area from Franklin to Waukesha to Brown Deer.

Despite the highly publicized sexting investigations, kids continue to swap skin online.

Greenfield Detective Doug Tweedie investigates sex crimes, including underage sexting.

"Even if your parents have blocked your phone to send or receive pictures, you can still take pictures on your phone and send them?" Henry asked.

"And send them via Kick," Tweedie said.

Kids avoid parental roadblocks with applications like Kick and Snapchat, which require just a wireless signal to share pictures and video.

"You're bypassing the system," Tweedie said.

Ironically, if caught sexting, kids face criminal penalties originally intended to protect them from dangerous adults.

"I don't think anybody necessarily wants to make a 13-year-old a felon," Tweedie said.

Wisconsin has no law that addresses sexting, so police and prosecutors can use child pornography statutes that can create some unintended results.

"The person who took picture could also be charged for possession of child pornography and then they sent it to somebody, they could be charged with possession of child pornography, and if they sent it to anybody, it could just go on and on and on," Tweedie said.

Those consequences have some states are dialing back penalties for teen sexters.

New Jersey lets first-time offenders avoid prosecution if they complete an education program.

New Hampshire won't prosecute an unwitting recipient of a sext if the teen reports it, and South Carolina is now considering limiting penalties to kids who forward sext messages without permission.

"Nobody has ever had an adolescence that is completely without moments of awkwardness, or mistakes," UWM sociology Professor Cary Costello said.

Costello said the law here fails to target the real problem.

"Extortion and stealing somebody else's images and exposing somebody without their consent, those are the inappropriate behaviors," Costello said.

Costello sees teen sexting as a digital age version of spin the bottle or truth or dare.

"They are expected to do that socially, and they can't just sort of magically mature without stumbling around and trying," Costello said.

The UW-Milwaukee students have some advice for anxious parents -- have common-sense conversations with your kids about actions and consequences.

WISN 12 News contacted the state Legislative Reference Bureau and learned that, as of yet, no one has introduced legislation to address teen sexting. Prosecutors have discretion in handling these cases. In many instances, kids may be ticketed, or if charged, those charges will expunged if kids stay out of trouble.

There have been cases where teens have been charged with felonies in cases involving deception or extortion, and offenders can end up being named on the state's sex offender registry. ..Source.. by By Colleen Henry

1 comment:

  1. getting closer to the streetFebruary 18, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    Now is when level 2&3 registerd citizens first time offenders after 15yrs should now be required to register annually . Those that have complied faithfully with laws and are trying to leave the past behind them are now targets of vigalantism . Registry within the department leaves the law with the department . Not with anyone that takes the information and passes it , and passes it , and passes it . That in all cases the registerd are not safe or protected in or out of jail . That has not been discused with the justices that leaves megans law & the AWA responcible for there laws . Also would be cost effective for every state & county which again takes first priority than the protection of childern . TRUE OR FALSE .

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