Last week, police officers from across Maryland joined school administrators at a seminar which addresses crime in the digital age. Specifically, the seminar focused on the dangers teens face when they participate in sexting and electronic dating violence.
The event was held in Sykesville, which is not far from Greenbelt, and it was sponsored by the Maryland Community Crime Prevention Institute. Presenters discussed a range of issues, including how the misuse of cell phones can result in serious criminal charges such as harassment and sexual offenses.
Most teens don't realize that sexting - sending and receiving pornographic images or sexual messages - can be a crime. But depending on the age of those involved, it can result in child pornography charges.
For instance, a 15-year-old girl might take nude photos of herself and text them to her 18-year-old boyfriend. If caught, the boyfriend could be charged with possession of child pornography. It would not matter that the pictures were of his girlfriend and that she took the pictures herself.
Another danger associated with cell phones is harassment. If a teenager used his cell phone to intimidate his girlfriend he could be charged with violating Maryland's laws against harassment and telephone misuse.
Teenagers live on their cell phones. They take pictures and videos and most of their conversations happen through texting. Therefore, when teens use their phone to do something illegal, all of the evidence is kept right in the phone.
Also, technology tends to advance more quickly than the law. This means that something like nude sexting between teenagers is often charged as possession of child pornography, simply because there is not a specific law to address it.
Teens will experiment with dangerous activities and they will make mistakes. It's part of growing up. But they also need to realize that some cell-phone related behaviors carry serious consequences; Ones that could affect the rest of their lives.
Source: WHTM News online, "Md. Police seminar focuses on sexting," Associated Press, 06 April 2011