Texting sexual images, called “sexting,” is increasingly common among teenagers, and in 23 states, authorities can prosecute sexting between teenagers as child pornography, potentially resulting in a 20-year prison term and sex-offender registry, according to the article, “Teenagers, Sexting & the Law,” in the May 2019 Pediatrics (published online April 15). The article comments on 39 previously published studies with 110,380 subjects that found over a quarter of teens (27.4 percent) have received a sext and 14.8 percent report having sent a sext. The prevalence of sexting has grown commensurate with teen cell phone use and did not vary by gender but did vary by age, with an increase in sexting as teens progressed through adolescence. Some experts have concluded that teen sexting is a modern form of flirting. Currently, 27 states have passed laws that essentially decriminalize sexting. In other states, teen sexting is a felony where a teen sexter can be both an offender and a victim. The authors conclude that when teen sexting is consensual—and doesn’t involved involuntary forwarding, coercion, extortion or adults—sexting does not warrant law enforcement involvement. They propose it is better addressed at home, in schools, and by health care professionals.
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