What Policymakers Should Know About Sexting

Sexting and Legal Approaches, Parry Aftab, Esq

Sexting is a difficult legal issue. Everyone who has heard of it has an opinion. But whether your stance is tough on crimes and minors or more realistic about teen behavior, sexting is problematic for three special reasons (beyond the obvious issue of society's desire to prevent nude images of minors or of minors engaged in sexual activities):

1. Sexting images are often used to attack those featured in those images by cyberbullies. Those in the images are more vulnerable to bullying and cyberbullying.

2. Given the nature of the images and the desire to keep parents from learning about them, many minors are "sextorted" by older teen or adult sexual predators into engaging in sexual acts or sending more images to keep their blackmailer quiet.

3. The minors taking, sending or possessing the sexting images of other minors can be charged with child pornography [2] and sexual exploitation crimes, such as the production, distribution and possession of child pornography, or endangerment of a minor.

Although "sexting" is a more recent trend, given the enhanced ability of cell phones and mobile devices to take and share images, the practice of taking nude or sexually provocative digital images and sharing them with others has been going on for more than 11 years. Parry Aftab worked on her first case of a teen voluntarily sharing a sexual video in 1998.