What is “sexting?”
“Sexting” is a new fad that has arisen, particularly among teenagers, with the increased usage of cell phones and e-mail. This fad is not a local one, or even one that just exists nationwide. Rather, teenagers around the world are getting in trouble by parents, teachers, and the local police for “sexting.” So, what exactly is “sexting” – it is the producing, sending, or receiving of nude or semi-nude pictures or other imagery via cell phones and the Internet.
Is it a crime?
“Sexting” can be a crime if the nude pictures sent are pictures of juveniles. Even if a juvenile voluntarily sends a nude picture of him/herself to his/her significant other, it can be a crime. Once a picture is on a cell phone, that photo can be easily downloaded onto the Internet where everyone in the world can get access to the juvenile’s picture. In addition, photos sent to a cell phone, can quickly and easily be forwarded to another classmate’s cell phone, especially if the teenage couple, who were the original sender and receiver, gets into a fight or breaks up and the receiver of the photo wants to “punish” and embarrass the sender. Photographs can live forever on the Internet and can have serious consequences for the sender of the photograph in terms of future employment and his/her personal life.
Can a child get in trouble for “sexting?”
Yes. Children as well as adults can face legal ramifications for sending, receiving, and forwarding semi-nude and nude photos of anyone under the age of 18.
What are the legal ramifications?
Currently, in the State of Illinois, both juveniles and adults (including the self-photographer) could be charged with Child Pornography, a Class 1 Felony punishable by a maximum fine of $100,000 and a prison sentence of 4-15 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. A conviction of child pornography would also require registration as a sex offender.
According to the Illinois Child Pornography statute, 720 ILCS 5/11-20.1(a), a person commits the offense of child pornography who:
(1) films, videotapes, photographs, or otherwise depicts or portrays by means of any similar visual medium or reproduction or depicts by computer any child whom he knows or reasonably should know to be under the age of 18 . . . where such child . . . is:
(vii) depicted or portrayed in any pose, posture or setting involving a lewd exhibition of the unclothed or transparently clothed genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or, if such person is female, a fully or partially developed breast of the child or other person; or
(2) with the knowledge of the nature or content thereof, reproduces, disseminates, offers to disseminate, exhibits or possesses with intent to disseminate any film, videotape, photograph or other similar visual reproduction or depiction by computer of any child . . .whom the person knows or reasonably should know to be under the age of 18. . .,engaged in an activity described in subparagraphs (i) through (vii) of paragraph (1) of this subsection; or
(3) with knowledge of the nature of content thereof, possesses any film, videotape, photograph or other similar visual reproduction or depiction by computer of any child. . . whom the person knows or reasonably should know to be under the age of 18. . ., engaged in an activity described in subparagraphs (i) through (vii) of paragraph (1) of this subsection;
Is Illinois doing anything to address “sexting?”
Yes, the Illinois legislature is currently in the process of addressing the issue of “sexting.” Both the House and Senate have introduced bills amending sections of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 to address the issue of “sexting” among teenagers. The pending bills would allow for a juvenile (the sender, receiver, or third party of a “sext”) to be charged with a misdemeanor rather than a felony, adjudicated a minor in need of supervision, and ordered to obtain counseling or other supportive services, or ordered to perform community service.