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Public Service Announcement: "Sexting" is a Crime

For you kids out there (and parents, too!), be aware that so-called "sexting" can be prosecuted as a criminal offense in some states, including Pennsylvania. Sexting occurs when someone sends a "sexually explicit" (e.g., nude) picture of himself or herself to another via email or social media, often with a mobile device such as the ones many teenagers routinely possess.

A recent prosecution in Virginia made national headlines after a 17-year-old boy and his 15-year-old girlfriend allegedly exchanged racy photos and videos with each other. When the young girl's parents found out, they contacted police and the boy was then charged with manufacturing child pornography-of himself!

What was even more bizarre about that case in Virginia was that in order to prove the boy was guilty, law enforcement obtained a search warrant to require the boy to go to the hospital and have pictures taken of his private parts so that law enforcement could use those photos in his prosecution. Fortunately, given the national attention, law enforcement withdrew the request for the warrant.

The reason we feel the need to highlight this is to give a stern (but friendly) warning: Before you do anything with your smartphone or on the Internet, realize that your actions can not only lead to great personal embarrassment, but they can lead to criminal charges. The offense is even more serious in Pennsylvania when you share such images or if you send them without permission and with the intent to harass the child (anyone under 18) depicted on the picture.

A variation of an old saying remains even more true today:"If you wouldn't send it to your mother or father, you shouldn't send it to your friends - or anyone else."

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