Teen Sexting Charges Rock Cape May NJ Schools

19 boys aged 17 and under and one 18-year old teen were charged this week in South New Jersey’s Cape May County on allegations that they had been distributing nude and partially nude pictures of female, underage students via text message and social media.

The teens have been charged with invasion of privacy, which could come with a 2-year term in teen detention for the younger boys and three to five years in prison for the 18-year old.

A sexting scandal involving this many students would be newsworthy under any circumstances, but in this case at least one parent claims that the girls involved were at least partially to blame. ABC news interviewed one parent who declined to be named, after her 14-year old son had been charged. She offered the following:

“The girls know that the boys trade [the nude photos] and it’s kind of a game that the girls want to be involved in. They need to step back and really take a full look at this. The girls are just as responsible as the boys.”

While none of the females have been charged at this time, we are certainly not going to lay blame on any of the victims, but it might come as a wakeup call to some.

It’s is common knowledge that some teens are sexting. It is also common knowledge that some teen boys are likely to share sexy photos that they’ve received with their friends, particularly after a breakup.

Obviously if teens don’t engage in sexting, none of this will happen in the first place. Teens in relationships tend to make rash decisions, though.

If there were in fact girls who were submitting nudes so that they could be involved in the game, they would be well served to think long and hard about the possible consequences. If the females had been charged on child porn charges, their lives might have changed forever – a fate worse than the embarrassment of having a risqué photo out there in cyberspace.

 

 

 

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6 NJ Teens Face Child Porn Charges After Sexting Outbreak

Six teens from sleepy North Jersey towns including Little Falls and West Orange are hoping that an upcoming family court appearance will keep them from facing the worst-case scenario after what sounds like widespread sexting got out of hand.

In the case, six teens ranging in age from 14 – 17 have been charged with second-degree distribution of child pornography and fourth-degree possession of child pornography.

The sexting itself may have been going on for a while, but the investigation apparently began when it was reported that one teen had hacked into another’s Kik account (a messaging app), and distributed inappropriate photos to others.

The laws are currently behind the times when it comes to cases such as this. According to Brooklyn attorney Carrie Goldberg:

“The child porn laws didn’t anticipate selfies – and teen-to-teen sexting – at all,” Goldberg said. “Youth can be thoughtless and cruel – and you add a cell phone, and it can be a recipe for disaster.”

If the kids are charged as it stands now, those facing distribution of child porn charges could get up to 10 years on those counts alone if found guilty. Hopefully it won’t get that far, as the cases are headed to family court where a judge could go easy on them.

When we originally commented on the case in April, only two teens had been charged. The police investigation that followed including examining the teens’ phones, one of which had 39,000 messages on it.

It’s not just the laws that are behind the times when it comes to teen sexting – parents are too. It’s a reality these days that if teens are dating or hanging out with members of the opposite sex, some level of sexting may be going on. We can’t be sure that the inappropriate pictures were actually obtained by hacking a Kik account, but private accounts can be compromised. It’s more likely that the teen was sloppy with his password, or shared the pics with someone then claimed to have been hacked when things got out of hand.

Parents can play defense by talking to teens openly about the risks associated with sexting before it starts happening, and updating the conversation with frequent reminders, perhaps referencing cases like this one.

 

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Horrific Miscarriage of Justice in Virginia Teen Sexting Case

Teen sexting is a bad idea. We get that, and remind our audience often of the potential unintended consequences. A case playing out in Virginia this week highlights a number of things that are fundamentally wrong about how child pornography laws are written, and how they apply and are being applied in the real world.

Trey Simms, a 17 year old from Virginia, was charged with two sexting-related felonies in January – manufacturing and distributing child pornography – after allegedly exchanging explicit text messages with his then girlfriend, who was 15. The police used a warrant to seize his iPhone and iPad and collect the evidence.

First things first, they are both minors, and only Simms has been charged.

Second, what the police are reported to have done, and are planning to do, is horribly wrong in our opinion, as you can see in the video below.

According to Simms’ aunt, the police took Simms into a room and told him to disrobe so that they could take pictures of his genitalia. He tried to refuse, and the police told him that if he did refuse, they would do it by force.

That alone seems wrong, but one of Simms’ lawyers told NBC Washington that investigators now want Sims to strip again and become “aroused”, so they can have pictures to compare to the ones in evidence.

This is a 17-year-old boy we’re talking about here. Other that the NBC Washington story, a Google search shows that no other news outlet has covered the story yet (but Cafémom.com is talking about it here).

If convicted, Simms could face jail time and be put on the sex offender registry, a life sentence. This is so wrong, not to mention the gross invasion of privacy of the nude photos, and the upcoming, even more invasive request.

Please join us in trying to heighten awareness of how wrong this all is.

 

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Minors Sexting and Child Pornography Charges – What is Justice?

Are child pornography charges ever appropriate in teen sexting cases? We asked Reddit, and the responses might surprise you.

redditWe wrote earlier this month about how a New Jersey teen sexting case looks like it will end up in criminal charges for young two individuals.

In the case, a West Orange boy is accused of sending nude photos of his ex-girlfriend to another girl, who then allegedly shared the pictures with friends and may have posted them online. Both of the teens, 16-years-old, have been charged with distributing child pornography and endangering the welfare of a child. The victim is 17 years old.

The case raises a number of questions, and child porn charges for teens over pictures that were acquired legitimately seem very steep. We posted a question and link to the story on the popular social networking site Reddit, to see what kind of justice the average American would like to see applied in cases such as these. To get an “average” opinion, we posted our question in the r/NewJersey subreddit, not a parenting forum. As background, since the average Reddit user is around 30 years old, many of the folks who replied probably aren’t even parents.

On the question of whether child porn charges are appropriate, some of the NO answers:

It’s a bit much. Sending a nude pic of one of their peers is not the same as child pornography. They should be punished but let’s not be ridiculous.

another

It’s ridiculous that the penalty for teen sexting is worse than the actual consequence of teen sexting.

and

They should not be charged the same as a full grown adult distributing images of child sex abuse. they should receive something APPROPRIATE for distributing images of a minor that where voluntarily taken and sent.

and

I know when I was 16 I wasn’t thinking correctly with a lot of decisions I was making. They should be charged with something but child porn? That’s life ruining, in prison you’re going to get raped and beat the f*** up.

and finally

They really want to institutionalize these kids at an early age. Whether it’s in public schools, juvy, or prison, they want these kids in the system and mindlessly obeying authority from as early an age as possible.

It’s f***ing disgusting. These are kids man. Can you remember what you were like at 16? I was a dumb-ass, immature little punk as were most kids.

On the YES, it’s appropriate side of the ledger, here’s the most popular answer:

As the images were sent without the consent of the girl — who was under 18 — then yes, they made the right call. F*** this “dumb teen” bulls**t. At 16 you fully understand that individuals have rights and privacy. This isn’t one of those times where a teenager gets in trouble for sending THEIR pictures; this is someone “leaking” picture that they had no authority to share.

and also

Agreed, I understand the penalty is harsh, but this sending pictures of your ex to get back at them has got to stop. Those pictures never go away once they are posted, these kids need to understand that.

On whether the victim, if she took the original photos or agreed to have them taken, bears any responsibility:

Why then did the original sender of her own nude photos not get arrested for child pornography? She would be just as guilty

and

I mean if they’re going to charge them, they might as well charge the girl who took the picture of herself. This really isn’t in the spirit of the law.

the third like this

If the subject of the photos took the photos and sent them in the first place, she should be charged as well.

Opinions are mixed, but most respondents are willing to assign some level of blame to the teens in this case, and some form of punishment for the accused. We’re not sure whether teen sexual activity has increased, but the ease with which provocative photos can be shared has skyrocketed. A constant dialog between teens and parents is needed to minimize the chances of your family finding itself in a similar situation.

 

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NJ Teen Sexting Case – Is It Revenge Porn or Child Pornography?

Or neither?

Teen sexting is happening every day, and the numbers of ways that it can end up badly for the teens involved are being played out in the media on an almost daily basis. The story this week – of two New Jersey teens who have been charged with child pornography – is just the latest example.

Since the two individuals charged are both minors, not many details in the case have been made public, but stories from the Star Ledger at nj.com and the Bergen Record at northjersey.com lay out the following:

A West Orange boy, 16-years-old, allegedly texted nude pictures of his ex girlfriend, a 17-year-old from Woodland Park, to another 16-year-old girl. The second girl then allegedly shared the pictures with friends and may have posted them online. Both of the 16-year-olds have been charged with distributing child pornography and endangering the welfare of a child, and more charges are expected.

It is interesting that this case is happening in New Jersey. In January of this year a law went into effect that will shield minors convicted of sexting offenses from being put on the Sexual Predator Registry, previously one of the most damaging results of such a conviction. Even short of that, a child pornography conviction will have a devastating impact on the future of these teens.

As lawmakers and parents deal with the fallout from sexting and revenge porn cases, a number of questions need to be answered:

For lawmakers – Should photos or video willingly shared between two teens be considered child pornography? If the photos are taken willingly, should the subject be protected to the same extent as would be the case for photos that were stolen or otherwise obtained without consent? Is a minor who voluntarily shares nude photos guilty of anything?

A number of states are in the process of crafting revenge porn legislation, but even some states who already have legislation in place are being criticized for its shortcomings. There have been reports recently that there may be a Federal revenge porn law introduced as soon as this month.

For parents – Is there any way to stop teens from sexting? Is it possible to know whether your teen has already been sexting?

Unless you want to take your teen’s phone away, the answer to the first question above for parents is communication. Explaining the risk by showing them a copy of the story linked above about the West Orange teens would be a good start. On the second question, if the sexting is happening one on one, there is no way for you to know unless you know the password for your teen’s phone, and even then he or she might be diligent about hiding it.

We would never blame the victim, but it bears mentioning that if the victim in the West Orange story had never sent the photos, or allowed them to be taken, in the first place, none of this would have happened. For parents of younger kids, you need to start early and be proactive about the communication – don’t wait until there is a serious boyfriend or girlfriend in the picture. Ensuring your teen is aware of the risks well before having the first impulse to send a racy picture is the best preparation.

 

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