'Sexting' Scare

Cell phone follies


One-fifth of the teenagers surveyed last year by said they had transmitted or posted nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves online. Since the sample was drawn from teenagers who had volunteered to participate in surveys, it may have been biased toward exhibitionists. But the results suggest that high schools across America are rife with child pornographers. 

At least, that's the way these teenagers would be treated in some jurisdictions. In January, police in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, announced that they had filed child pornography charges against six students at Greensburg Salem High School: three girls who had taken naughty photos of themselves and sent them to boys by cell phone, plus three boys who had received them. Lisa Rullo, the school's former principal and now the school district's director of student services, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "We inform the students that it still is child pornography" even if the images are voluntarily transmitted self-portraits and no adults are involved.

The Pennsylvania arrests followed similar cases involving a 16-year-old Florida girl and her 17-year-old boyfriend, whose child pornography convictions were upheld by a state appeals court in 2007, and a 15-year-old Ohio girl who was arrested last fall. Upholding the prosecution of teenagers like these, the Florida appeals court said it's for their own good. "The statute was intended to protect minors like appellant and her co-defendant from their own lack of judgment," the court said. "Appellant was simply too young to make an intelligent decision about engaging in sexual conduct and memorializing it." But not too young to be branded a child pornographer.