Can a Minor Receive Criminal Charges for Sexting?

Go to the mall, a fast food restaurant or anywhere else you’re likely to find teenagers, and you’ll hardly see one without a cellphone. Cellphones give teens the opportunity to keep in touch with their friends via texting and social media. However, Pennsylvania teenagers may not even realize that they can get into serious trouble with the law just by having certain pictures stored on their phones. The potential consequences are even worse if they send these pictures to their friends and other contacts. It can be a nightmare to imagine that your own teen might be facing criminal charges for “sexting,” a type of text messaging that’s popular among middle school and high school students.

A USA Today report revealed that teenagers send these types of texts and images much more often than teachers and parents realize. Whether as a result of peer pressure or to impress someone they’re dating, many teens send semi-nude or nude photos of themselves to another student. Often, these pictures are then forwarded to other students. In numerous cases, sexually explicit pictures of minors eventually made their way across numerous states.

Students may think it’s a joke or harmless flirting to share these pictures with their friends. However, possessing and forwarding explicit photos of minors is considered child pornography, which can come with serious penalties, even for minors who don’t know any better. The consequences can be even worse if the subject of the photos does not realize or did not give permission for the pictures to be shared.

It’s important to talk to your teenager about the potential consequences that can result from sharing or possessing sexually explicit photos of other teens. This information is not meant to be taken as legal advice.