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Consensual 'sexting' by teens can be criminal | News

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Consensual 'sexting' by teens can be criminal

ATLANTA -- Sexually explicit cell phone images of teens can lead to criminal charges for the sender and receiver, according to former DeKalb County District Attorney J. Tom Morgan.

Morgan appeared on 11Alive News Today on Tuesday to talk about his book, Ignorance Is No Defense: A Teenager's Guide to Georgia Law. Morgan said most parents and teenagers have no idea that "sexting" can have dire consequences, even when it's consensual.

"They think it's a private thing with no ramifications," Morgan told 11Alive's Donna Lowry. "They can be charged with child pornography and end up on the sex offender registry."

Morgan said as many as one in four teens admit to sending or receiving sexually graphic text messages. He said it starts in middle school.

"Parents are so out of touch," he said. "The technology available to our children is beyond our comprehension."

Morgan said parents should not wait to talk with their children, and they should repeat the message like a broken record.

"Kids don't realize that if they end up on the sex offender registry, they can't go to college," Morgan said. "They can't live within 100 feet of a church, and most college campuses have churches."

Morgan said child pornography laws can apply to sexually explicit images if any party involved is under 18. And that can lead to steep legal ramifications, including felony charges that carry sentences of up to 20 years in prison.

Here's another surprising fact. Morgan said it doesn't matter if a child is the original sender of the material, a recipient, or "only" forwarding something that was sent to him or her.

"Any and all involvement with a sexting scandal can have serious legal repercussions," Morgan points out. "If your child is a recipient, tell your child to delete the material immediately and never to forward it."