Is your child “sexting?” A guide for parents

Among teens today, the recent phenomenon of “sexting” — taking nude photos of themselves or other teens and e-mailing them to others — is getting lots of attention from parents and law enforcement officials.
So what’s it mean to you as a parent? And what does it mean if your child is sexting using a cell phone that you have given them?
Well, that depends, but it’s something that you need to be aware of to protect yourself and your children from possible legal actions.
Because this is a relatively new activity, there’s not a lot of case law yet pertaining directly to sexting. But the laws on child pornography in our nation are very clear, and when nude photos of minors are electronically distributed, whether over the Internet or via cellphone transmission, senders and recipients are potentially looking at serious penalties, including jail time and felony charges that can follow them for years. Parents who provide cell phones to their kids could even potentially be liable in such cases, depending on state laws, evidence and other factors.
A news story in the Sun Sentinel newspaper in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., recommends that parents prohibit their children from having data plans on their cell phones to prevent such files from being sent or received, establish acceptable ground rules for the use of cell phones and also regularly monitor who their kids are communicating with through their, and similar social media Web pages.
Yes, vigilance is a good start, but there are a myriad of still unknown legal issues to be resolved.
In the meantime, talk to your teens and make them aware of the legal landmines that exist if they are involved in such behaviors.
And if your child should become involved in sexting activities, know your legal rights and options and be sure to talk with a lawyer. This is certainly not child’s play.