Rapid changes in cell phone technology have brought about many new legal challenges. One major challenge courts are facing across the country is adolescents sending and or receiving sexually explicit content via cell phones. This practice has become commonly referred to as Sexting.
Sexting has become a wide spread practice among adolescents. 2014 survey data from UKnowKids and DoSomething.org illustrates the cause for concern:
39% of teens have engaged in sexting
Half of teens who have sexted have sent nude or semi-nude photos or video
86% of teens who have sexted say they haven’t been caught
More teens (48%) have received a sext message than sent one (39%)
17% of teens who have received a sext message have shared it with or sent it to others
15% of teens involved in sexting have sent a suggestive message to someone that haven’t met in person
In some states, transferring sexually explicit images of a minor via cell phones is considered distribution of child pornography. Therefore, many adolescents who engage in Sexting may have to face felony charges. Since many adolescents do not recognize the seriousness of this behavior, most courts have realized that the majority of adolescents who engage in Sexting may not require such harsh punishment. Westmoreland County’s Dangers of Sexting diversion program was created to specifically address this legal dilemma and has now become a vital resource to the courts.
Magisterial District Judges are able to make referrals to the Dangers of Sexting Diversion Program by submitting the form to the right.