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Juvenile sexting is increasing in frequency. Many disturbing examples of such behavior exist. For instance, two year-olds, a male and a female, were sentenced in juvenile court for possessing and sending nude photos on their cell phones; the girl sent a picture of herself to the boy, and another image allegedly was taken on his camera. Other students, who apparently continued to forward the image, allegedly harassed the girl. Law enforcement officers and prosecutors face increased pressure to handle these cases as effectively as possible.

Sexting can result in tragic circumstances, such as the ly noted suicide. Additionally troubling, adults may participate in the activity. However, aggressive prosecution of all juvenile sexting cases also can present problems. In one instance, a local prosecutor was named as a federal defendant in a civil lawsuit after he attempted to take corrective action over images he considered questionable. The U. District Court in Pennsylvania granted a temporary restraining order to prevent the prosecutor from bringing criminal charges against the juvenile plaintiffs over the images.

The registration requirements can apply to young people and, depending upon the circumstances, can extend well into adulthood. Think about the consequences of taking, sending, or forwarding a sexual picture of yourself or someone else underage. You could get kicked off of sports teams, face humiliation, lose educational opportunities, and even get in trouble with the law.

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Before hitting sendremember that you cannot control where this image may travel. What you send to a boyfriend or girlfriend easily could end up with their friends, and their friends, and their friends.

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If you forward a sexual picture of someone underage, you are as responsible for this image as the original sender. You could face child pornography charges, go to jail, and have to register as a sex offender. Report any nude pictures you receive on your cell phone to an adult you trust. Do not delete the message. Instead, get your parents or guardians, teachers, and school counselors involved immediately.

To determine the appropriate response, law enforcement officers must carefully consider the alleged misconduct and determine if it falls into one of two. First, is the image or communication illegal? For instance, the definition found in the federal child pornography statute, 18 U. Additionally, investigators should consider whether the communication might be harassing or menacing to the party in the image or the recipient of it.

Second, did any illegal use of a computer occur in the communication? For instance, a youth involved in viewing, transmitting, or storing inappropriate pictures on school equipment might face legal difficulty for unauthorized use or damages. The cleanup and removal of these images can be costly for schools.

Obviously, these can overlap. However, this can shed light on alternative charges that may not be as apparent if someone views the misconduct solely Reno nv Cleveland Ohio nude a sex offense. For example, a year-old male posts an inappropriate image of himself on the school computer as a prank. Perhaps, charging him as a delinquent for damaging school property due to the cost of removing the offensive image may be a more appropriate response. To this end, investigators should analyze the subject of the images, the victim.

How old is the victim? Did she know about the photograph? Did the victim take it herself without the encouragement or direct participation of any other person? Did she forward the picture to anyone?

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What is the age difference between the victim and the recipient of the image? Does she now face harassment because of her inappropriate behavior? Who is harassing her, and are charges warranted against them? The answers to these questions can help indicate if the subject of the image is a true victim in every sense of the word. Although, perhaps, not in the image, the youth offender somehow took part in the juvenile sexting. His actions could include soliciting the picture or actively participating in creating, possessing, receiving, or distributing the image. Did he request the picture, or did someone just send it to him?

Did he keep it or forward it on? To embarrass or harass the victim? What is or was the relationship between the youth offender and victim? How old are they, and what is the age difference between them? It may be a mitigating factor where there is little or no disparity in age. However, if the offender is ificantly older e. Has the perpetrator participated in similar misconduct in the past? Consideration of these factors can help investigators and prosecutors decide the proper course of action, such as no charges, diversion, or formal charges sex or nonsex offense.

As the first line of defense against this problem, law enforcement personnel and educators should provide regular presentations—and numerous excellent information sources exist to draw from—to young people on Internet safety and the repercussions of inappropriate online behavior. Digital images do not deteriorate over time and easily can spread worldwide. Youths need to understand that what they do online may have a very long existence.

Such presentations can help minimize or prevent future occurrences of juvenile sexting. They also can be used as a component in developing diversion programs. In cases where the images clearly involve child pornography, law enforcement needs to contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children NCMECwhich operates the Child Victim Identification Program, the national clearinghouse for child pornography cases and the main point of contact for international agencies concerning child pornography victims. By forwarding information Reno nv Cleveland Ohio nude known victims, prosecutors can obtain convictions of other perpetrators who may possess these images long after the juvenile sexting case has been initially investigated.

Instate law makers, most notably in Ohio, Utah, and Vermont, began considering legislative solutions. One early proposal was a blanket decriminalization of juvenile sexting. Such a questionable approach has the real potential of putting youths at risk by inadvertently excluding sexting offenses committed by older juveniles against younger ones.

Recently, Vermont stepped back from this extreme, opting to reclassify juvenile sexting cases from felony to misdemeanor offenses as long as the acts were consensual. The debate, no doubt, will continue, but legislatures must be careful to not enact laws that put youths at risk.

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Juvenile sexting poses a challenge for numerous groups to act responsibly with common sense and sound discretion. Law enforcement officers and prosecutors must keep in mind that juvenile Reno nv Cleveland Ohio nude and child pornography laws exist to protect young people. While the activity associated with juvenile sexting technically may violate criminal statutes, prosecutors must use discretion, vested with their position, to confront the activity appropriately. Every act violating a statute should not necessarily bring charges.

Legislators must avoid the urge to legislate away instances of an abuse of prosecutorial discretion. A well-intentioned law deed to undo a perceived overreaction by one prosecutor may unintentionally prevent the prosecution of a youth exploiting a much younger. And, young people need to learn to use technology responsibly.

Everyone has a role in protecting youths, and they need to fulfill that responsibility with common sense and sound discretion. The opinions contained in the article are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of the U. Department of Justice. George Skumanick, Jr. District Court of the Middle District of Pennsylvania, case no.

However, in the unlikely event a juvenile was prosecuted federally as an adult, it might trigger the federal requirement to register as a sex offender. States can be more restrictive and mandate that their statutes on child pornography, committed by juveniles, trigger state registration requirements. Sexting: Risky Actions and Overreactions Articles.

July 1, Risky Actions and Overreactions. By Art Bowker, M. Bowker is a cybercrime specialist with the U. Assistant U. Attorney Sullivan serves with the Office of the U. Attorney, Northern District of Ohio, in Cleveland. Advice for Young People. Misconduct To determine the appropriate response, law enforcement officers must carefully consider the alleged misconduct and determine if it falls into one of two. Prevention As the first line of defense against this problem, law enforcement personnel and educators should provide regular presentations—and numerous excellent information sources exist to draw from—to young people on Internet safety and the repercussions of inappropriate online behavior.

Additional Investigative Areas In cases where the images clearly involve child pornography, law enforcement needs to contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children NCMECwhich operates the Child Victim Identification Program, the national clearinghouse for child pornography cases and the main point of contact for international agencies concerning child pornography victims. Legislative Remedies Instate law makers, most notably in Ohio, Utah, and Vermont, began considering legislative solutions.

Conclusion Law enforcement officers and prosecutors must keep in mind that juvenile sex and child pornography laws exist to protect young people. For Additional Information.

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Sexting: Risky Actions and Overreactions