As BoardBuzz has mentioned before, “Sexting” became a household term last year after four Pennsylvania teens were charged with disseminating and possessing child pornography after officials learned they had exchanged nude photos of themselves via cell phone. Moreover, lawmakers have been rethinking the issue, and most seem to want to decriminalize sexting among teens.
The Illinois legislature passed a bill back in March that would limit penalties for minors that share nude or sexually explicit photos via cell phone or computer. The bill, which has moved to Governor Pat Quinn’s desk for signature, aims to take a realistic approach to teens making stupid decisions. It would both educate and punish teenagers for sexting, but not treat them as sex offenders. Sexting teens would likely receive counseling and perform community service.
Ars Technica notes:
Under the Illinois proposal, teens who send racy images to just each other would not be punishedonly those who decide to widely distribute those images (usually as part of an attempt to blackmail or embarrass the sender). Those found guilty of sending the texts would be subject to juvenile court supervision, but wouldn’t get labeled a sex offender for possessing an image of a minor, as would be appropriate under current Illinois law.
“As the Internet explodes and people are taking advantage of it, these images hang around forever,” said State Senator Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago). “Once they’re disseminated, they can ruin somebody’s career.” Silverstein left open the option of crafting more severe penalties for sexting. “If it continues, we might have to take harsher steps,” he said.
Quinn’s spokesman Bob Reed said the governor intends to review the bill before committing to sign it. What do you think? Does the Illinois bill strike the right balance between punishment and education?