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The importance of talking to your teen about sexting

When new technology is created, new terms and phrases are sure to follow. From tweeting to texting to surfing the Internet, these new words and phrases help define activities that did not exist prior to the development of certain technology. Though foreign at first, these words and phrases eventually become part of our societal lexicon, giving us a better understanding of the world around us.

Take for example the term sexting. Unheard of 20 years ago, sexting has become popular among teenagers and often refers to the action of sending a nude photograph via a cellphone to someone else. But while this might seem innocent enough to teens -- albeit subversive and a little naughty to others -- sexting can actually constitute criminal activity in some cases. Knowing when this is the case however can mean the difference between staying in accordance with the law and facing criminal charges.

According to California and federal law, it is unlawful to produce and distribute images that are sexual in nature if the subject of the image is under the age of 18. That's because doing so constitutes child pornography, which is illegal in the United States. Though teens may not realize it, sending naked pictures of themselves to their boyfriend or girlfriend could constitute a crime if the teen receiving the image was 18 or older and the sender was still a minor.

Because of the wording of our laws, Cal. Penal Code §311.11 could apply to anyone, including juveniles who may face steeper penalties if they are tried as an adult. For most, a situation such as this would be terrifying, especially because most teens aren't aware that there could be legal consequences for sexting with a minor. It's because of this that we hope parents reading today's post will discuss this issue with their teens as well as remember to call an attorney if their child's mistake leads to criminal charges down the road.

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