August 17, 2009
JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow and the Will County Juvenile Probation Department have launched an initiative to warn parents, teachers and teen-agers about the dangers associated with “sexting.”
Sexting describes when teen-agers send sexually explicit pictures of themselves via their cell phones to friends and other people. It is a growing trend that can have disastrous long-term consequences for young people who engage in this dangerous practice.
The educational initiative has two components:
“We want to encourage parents to have frank conversations with their teen-agers about the hazards of sexting,” Glasgow said. “Young people don’t realize the long-term damage that sexting can cause to their reputations, not to mention the potential criminal consequences that could burden them for the rest of their lives.”
According to a survey conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unwanted Pregnancy, one in five teen-agers has admitted to sexting. Even though teens may perceive it as harmless fun, sexting can be devastating to a child’s reputation. Compromising photographs can easily be posted on the Internet for anyone – including adult sexual predators – to access and distribute.
The criminal consequences can be equally devastating. Anyone who takes a photograph of a child in a nude or provocative pose is technically creating child pornography. Anyone who sends such explicit material electronically – including the teen who created it, or a trusted friend who forwards it to others – is disseminating child pornography.
These are potential felony crimes. Prosecutors and police across the nation are struggling to find appropriate ways to address this growing problem in the legal arena. However, it is important to note that teens in other jurisdictions have been charged with felonies.
In Will County, juveniles who are caught sexting may be placed on one year of informal supervision to keep them out of the criminal justice system while holding them accountable for their actions. If a sexting case were to be charged as a crime, it is possible a teen who is convicted could be ordered by a judge to register as a sex offender for life.
“After a conviction for most sex offenses, the courts have no discretion but to require registration as a sex offender in every location where the offender resides,” said Chief Judge Gerald Kinney. “Failure to timely register leads to new charges against the offender and more involvement with the criminal justice system. It is important that young people understand that these are significant lifelong consequences that could arise from their actions.”
Glasgow warned: “A sex offender registration requirement will follow someone forever and will affect his or her ability to get into college or obtain certain jobs. We must encourage our teens to think before they act so that they don’t jeopardize their reputations and their futures.”
The state’s attorney’s informational fliers will be available on the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office Web site at www.willcountysao.com in the near future. Copies also are available at no charge by calling the Will County State’s Attorney’s Director of Crime Prevention, at (815) 727-8742.
Charles B. Pelkie
(815) 530-7110 (cellular)
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