Teenagers and Sexting: What Teens and Parents Need to Know

In today’s world, you’re more likely to encounter a teen who owns a cell phone than one who doesn’t. In fact, according to a recent report, over half of all children in the United States have a cell phone by the time they turn 11, and a whopping 84% of all teenagers have their own phone. For parents, cell phones can provide security by allowing them to stay in touch with their children when they are away and allow them to feel they are giving their teen a little bit of freedom. For teenagers, cell phones can represent a way to connect with friends, play games, and get on social media. But what happens when teenagers use these devices for risky or dangerous behavior?

Sexting is a serious problem among teenagers across the United States and involves the transmission of sexually explicit content, including videos, photos, or language, by means of an electronic device. DoSomething.org reports nearly 40% of teenagers have sent or uploaded a sexually explicit message and 15% of teens have sent a nude picture of themselves. And while this behavior may seem innocent to teens who engage in it, any teen who sends or receives sexually explicit content in Louisiana is breaking the law and may face legal consequences. If your teen has been charged with sexting, it’s important to seek legal advice. To learn more or to speak to an experienced attorney, contact Stephenson, Chavarri & Dawson, LLC at 504-523-6496.

Shocking sexting statistics

As parents, we do our best to protect our children. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to monitor everything they do. With advances in technology and increasing usage of mobile devices, more and more teens are participating in sexual activity online and exchanging sexually graphic material. This disturbing trend has led to changes to state and federal laws aimed to protect our children. As a parent, the more you know, the more you can educate your child and help them make smart choices. Recent research has found:

  • 70% of teenagers sexting do so with their partner.
  • 12% of teen girls who have reported sexting did so because they felt pressured. 
  • Approximately 1 in 8 teens has had an explicit text forwarded to someone else without their consent and 1 in 12 teens has forwarded a sext without the other person’s consent. 
  • Only 8 states currently have laws in place regarding teens and sexting. 

Sexting and the law

If you live in Louisiana and have a teenager, it is important to understand the law regarding sexting. When it comes to grown adults, sexting is an activity that is at the discretion of the parties involved. Anyone over the age of 17 can send and accept sexual content to another person over the age of 17. The law is not the same for minors.  Louisiana is one of the few states that have laws specifically prohibiting the dissemination and acceptance of sexual material between minors. According to Louisiana law, no person under the age of 17 shall send an “indecent depiction” of themselves to another person, nor shall they accept an indecent depiction sent by another person under the age of 17. 

Specifically, the law finds:

  • Indecent depiction is defined as any “photograph, videotape, film, or other reproduction of a person under the age of seventeen years engaging in sexually explicit conduct.”
  • Sexually explicit conduct includes: “masturbation or lewd exhibition of the genitals, pubic hair, anus, vulva, or female breast nipples of a person under the age of seventeen years.”

Under the law, both the sender and the recipient can be found guilty of a crime, punishable by a fine of no less than $100, imprisonment of no less than 10 days, or both. Consequences can go up for each subsequent offense.

Special considerations when one party is 17 or older

Louisiana’s sexting laws only apply when both parties are under the age of 17. If the sender or recipient is at least 17 years old, they may be subject to child pornography charges. It’s very important to understand that it does not matter if the person under the age of 17 gave consent or if the adult was unaware of the minor’s age. Further, Louisiana does not have a close in age exemption, meaning a person 18 found guilty of sexting a person under 17 may face felony charges. The consequences for these charges are severe and can include substantial jail time and/or fines. 

What to do if you or your teen are charged with sexting

Cases involving minors under the age of 17 are often referred to family court. However, that does not mean that these are not serious charges. Sexting offenses stay on a person’s criminal record unless they are expunged. While your teen may see their offense as a minor inconvenience, it is one that can follow them throughout their personal and professional life. 

If your teen is accused of sexting, or if you are facing more serious child pornography charges, it is important to contact an experienced attorney right away. Do not admit to anything and do not hand over any electronic device without talking to an attorney. Once you meet with your attorney they will advise you of your rights and help guide you through the next steps. If you already have a sexting conviction on your record, an attorney may be able to help you get your record expunged. 

Contact an attorney you can trust

At Stephenson, Chavarri & Dawson, LLC, our job is to fight for our clients. If you or your teen is facing a sexting charge, it is important to speak to an experienced legal professional right away. If you believe your child is sexting, talk to them and make sure they understand the law. Don’t let a mistake define your child’s future. To learn more or to speak to an attorney, contact our office at 504-523-6496 or visit us online to schedule an initial consultation

 

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