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Is Your Child a Child Pornographer?

Here is a modern-day parental dilemma: Your 15-year-old son is caught sending photos of a topless classmate to a bunch of his friends. He claims that the girl borrowed his cell phone and took the pictures herself. He was just sharing. The best response is:

  1. Revoke his cell phone privileges for the next three years
  2. Make mowing the lawn, garbage duty and dishwashing mandatory for the next three years
  3. Hire a good criminal defense attorney with experience in child pornography charges

For parents in many states, including Ohio, the correct answer is C. Having or distributing a sexually explicit image of a minor is a felony that can involve jail time and lifetime registration as a sex offender. In a recent case in Virginia, three high school students who sexted videos are facing 20-year sentences, even though they had no intentions to widely distribute the material.

Some legal rights groups want to make teen sexting a misdemeanor offense. However, 20 years behind bars might not be enough time if your teenager committed suicide after sexually explicit images of her went viral. Consensual sexting may seem like a foolish but basically harmless activity, but law enforcement officials point out that professional child pornographers often intercept these images to sell over the Internet.

Given the widespread popularity of sexting, it is likely that state laws will eventually be adjusted so that minors do not require criminal defense lawyers for sending risqué photos. Until then, inform your kids about the potential consequences of sexting. Under Ohio law, it is illegal for anyone, even a minor, to make a photograph or video of a naked minor or a minor engaged in a sexual activity. It is also illegal to receive such pictures.

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