Some states (in this case New Jersey) continue to create laws to specifically address the issue of teen "sexting" in order to make consequences better fit the behavior. When sexting first became an issue two years ago, teens in several states were prosecuted and convicted under established felony child pornography and sex offense laws.
New Jersey juveniles caught sending sexually explicit photographs via their cell phones would not face criminal prosecution but rather intense education on the ramifications under a bill advanced by the full Assembly on Monday.
The measure, approved unanimously by a vote of 78-0, aims to curtail a practice known popularly as “sexting,” a problem that has increasingly perplexed parents, school administrators and law enforcement officials because of ambiguities in child pornography laws. Prosecutors in several states have even charged teenagers with criminal offenses, including distribution of child pornography.
“Teens need to understand the ramifications of their actions, but they shouldn’t necessarily be treated as criminals,” said Lampitt (D-Camden). “We need to create a path that places education and forgiveness before arrest and prosecution. Young people – especially teen girls – need to understand that sending inappropriate pictures is not only potentially illegal, but can leave an indelible mark on them socially and educationally.”
Educating young people and getting them to change their behavior must be our focus,” said Riley (D-Salem/Cumberland/Gloucester). “Those conversations need to happen between a parent and child and among peers. These measures can spark those conversations or, in the worst case, ensure that kids who do make a mistake don’t pay for it in court.”