There are several studies that indicate that sexting is a widespread practice among teenagers, who don’t completely appreciate the dangers as well as the legal consequences of such practices. Sexting is defined as the sharing of nude, or explicit pictures or even videos of oneself or others using a smartphone. It’s fairly harmless when responsible adults do it. However, when teenagers below the age of legal consent share nude pictures of themselves, there is a serious risk of legal consequences.

In Colorado, there have been cases involving teenagers who exchanged such videos and pictures with legal repercussions. In one widely publicized case in Jefferson County in 2012, two teenagers were arrested after they were alleged to have shared video footage on their cell phone.  The footage showed friends engaged in sexual activity inside the car in which they were all traveling. The footage was then passed on from cell phone to cell phone in the local community. At least one of the teenagers in this case was below the age of 18.

In the Colorado case, one of the boys was actually charged with making the video and sharing with others, while the other was charged with possessing the video and sharing it with others. Both of these are third-degree felony charges. Make no mistake – your child could face criminal charges if he uses his cell phone irresponsibly.

What teenagers may not realize when they take such pictures and send them to others, or when they shared nude pictures and explicit videos of themselves without thinking of the consequences, is that they may be exposing themselves to charges of child pornography. If the person who is depicted in the video or the picture being shared on the smartphone is below 18 years of age, then that could legally constitute child pornography.

The situation is not as far-fetched as it seems. But, the average teenager remains completely and blissfully unaware of these. Teenagers don’t realize that what seems like a harmless activity for them, could actually result in serious consequences and even criminal charges.

Why Do Teens Sext?

According to a recent study conducted by researchers in Belgium, teenagers who sext admit that they do so because of peer pressure. The researchers also found that teenagers who are looking for romance are more likely to sext, because they hope that the recipient of these images will respond positively to their overtures. The teenage years are the time when the person is most focused on exploring his or her sexual identity, and forming romantic relationships. Many teenagers, not surprisingly, assume that sharing images of themselves with the object of their attention, will lead to romantic success.

The researchers also found that most teenagers seem to have a very laid-back approach to sexting, and don’t seem to take the consequences of such practices very seriously. They are under the false impression that they are protected because they’re communicating via smartphone or computer and not face-to-face. Many teens even feel comfortable sharing photos or messages that are inappropriate via social media, especially on apps that claim to have self-destructing or disappearing messages. Kids are not aware that online and on the phone, there is really no privacy, despite what apps or websites claim.

There are legal consequences to sharing nude images of teenagers on your smartphone devices. Many teenagers don’t realize that these images can be transmitted very quickly in school or among friends.

How Can Parents Prevent Teens From Sexting?

If you are a parent with a teenage child, your conversations with him or her must definitely include the need to avoid taking nude, semi -nude or other kinds of objectionable pictographs on the smart phone. Teenagers must understand that when they decide to share such images with others, they are not just putting themselves at risk of serious emotional harm and a shattered reputation, but possibly also inviting crime charges against them. Convictions of certain types of sex crimes could result in long-term penalties, including a requirement to register in a sex offender registry.

Experts suggest that parents drive home the fact that images last forever, and even if these are deleted from your smartphone, they can be transmitted from smartphone to smartphone in a matter of seconds. Pictures can be posted on social media portals, on online porn sites, on Instagram, and can be easily traced to your child’s smart phone. Also stress similar consequences if your child actually takes seminude selfies, and sends them to others.

Look for examples in the news about sexting that show the very real consequences of participating in this behavior. When a story makes headlines, use this as a way to bring up the topic with your child and discuss how the penalties could have been avoided if the person used better judgment.

Start the conversation with kids early, but don’t bring up sex until it’s age appropriate to do so. When talking to younger children about sexting, keep it vague and tell them that pictures should never contain other people or themselves without their clothes on, or kissing or touching another person. Once they get a little older, turn the conversation into a more specific discussion about sexting. Ask teens if their friends are doing it, how they feel about it, and what they know about it. If they don’t know much, this is your chance to tell them the truth about sexting and the consequences that this behavior carries. Discuss the concept of privacy with your kids, and explain how privacy is never a guarantee on your phone or on the internet, no matter how safe your child feels. Don’t be hesitant about bringing up this topic in conversation. It may be one of the more difficult conversations you have with your child, but it will definitely be one of the most important.

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges related to sexting, contact Dan Murphy, an experienced Denver criminal defense attorney who will fight for the best possible outcome for your case.