It seems these days that every teenager in Michigan owns a cellular telephone and most phones are equipped with a camera. These factors are a dangerous mix for the approximately twenty (20%) of teenagers, according to a recent survey, who send sexually explicit images via their cellular telephones. Teenagers naturally have a decreased sense of assessing the risk of engaging in certain behaviors and this behavior is one that appears to be increasing based upon the number of prosecutions that have occurred throughout the country. “Sexting” can be a violation of child pornography laws, which are felonies, and can lead to jail or prison time, and most often require registration on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry.
Michigan law as a general rule provides that child pornography, or child sexually abusive material, involves or includes the possession of images or other depictions of persons under the age of 18 that are sexual in nature. Laws dealing with child pornography are drafted in very broad terms to prohibit possession of images that may appear to be innocent but are nonetheless unlawful to possess. Parents with teenagers should be aware that “sexting” is illegal and can potentially have lifetime consequences. Parents should also advise their children of the potential consequences of such behavior. Taking a proactive approach to educating teenagers could save a whole lot of heartache and legal fees.