Is Teen Sexting Child Pornography, or Young Experimentation? (Pt. 1)

Does a nude selfie, taken by a teen, count as child pornography? The law says yes!


With the alarming rise in sexting, and the taking and sending of nude selfies by teens today, law enforcement is grappling with a question that even a decade ago would have seemed like a no-brainer for the prosecution. Is teen sexting child abuse? Kiddie Porn? Or is it simply young adolescent experimentation? And how should this particular issue be dealt with?


“Self production” is the law enforcement lingo for a naked picture of a minor that was taken by that minor. It’s a selfie. While it may qualify as child pornography under both Michigan and Federal law, it is a very common occurrence these days. And teens just don’t understand why it’s a big deal, which makes handling the problem really hard for the cops, for the prosecutor and for us criminal defense attorneys.


Teenagers often don’t understand why the law is involved in the first place.


Many of them feel that any nude pictures they took of themselves are their own private property. They also tend to think that because they weren’t coerced, it is no one’s business but their own – a very “my body, my choice” approach. However, while this may work for adults with regard to reproductive issues, it’s much harder to accept coming from a 15-year-old taking nude selfies. The problem gets compounded when the teenager shares that photograph. That’s call distribution of child pornography. It’s a serious crime.


So what are police doing these days, when confronted with this recent phenomenon? In some cases, not much at all. In others – lots. It all depends on the circumstances. An article in the Pediatrics Journal provided a breakdown of data pulled from police cases across the country, assessing how often teens are actually arrested for sexting, and in what capacity.


There is often more than meets the eye in teen sexting cases.


As it turns out, on average about two-thirds of the cases investigated involved “aggravating” circumstances beyond just the taking and sending of a naked “selfie.” That means an adult was involved, or another minor engaged in non-consensual, malicious or abusive behavior. In 62% of cases involving an adult, an arrest was made, whereas only 36% of minor-only cases resulted in an arrest.


When it was determined that the case was “experimental”, which means it included only minors and there were no aggravating circumstances, only 18% of cases generated an arrest. It’s also worth noting that in these cases, more than 60% of the images involved were distributed to and from cell phones, without ever reaching the internet.


Are the cops handling these issues well, or poorly?


While 18% still seems like a rather high number to some, there are those who feel this shows a reasonable attitude on behalf of law enforcement. Many cops are taking a more benevolent approach, it seems, choosing instead to erase naked images off confiscated phones before returning them with a warning, rather than making an arrest. After all, child porn charges are no joke here in Michigan, and that kind of conviction can destroy a kid’s future, which seems a bit harsh when there was no malicious intent.


However, each case is dealt with differently, and here in Michigan there have been numerous instances where teen sexting has led to criminal charges. Please join us next time, as we continue this rather difficult and controversial discussion. Until then, if you or a loved one have been accused of a sex crime in Michigan, call the experienced sex crime defense attorneys at The Kronzek Firm today. We are available 24/7 at 866 766 5245 (866 7No Jail) to help you with your legal concerns. We’ve been fighting criminal charges since the last century.


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