Just as texting becomes commonplace, teenagers have developed a variation on the theme that is raising hackles of parents and law enforcement officers alike.
Sexting, the practice of sending nude or semi-nude photos via text mail, got several high school students in hot water this week. Teenage girls sent pictures of themselves to male classmates at their Pennsylvania high school.
School district officials found some of the photos when they confiscated one of the boys' phones and found pictures of girls in various stages of undress. Apparently, boys were collecting the images as avidly as baseball cards.
A recent study revealed that 20 percent of teens have shared racy photos with one another.
Now a county prosecutor is threatening to prosecute the girls for child pornography, sexual abuse, open lewdness and other possible charges.
The incident started when two girls posed provocatively in opaque white bras and sent the pictures to classmates. The girls claimed they were just having harmless fun. The American Civil Liberties Union says the incident doesn't meet any definition of porn.
Not everyone agrees. Several states are trying to halt sexting by charging students with crimes. Ohio is considering a bill that would prohibit minors from sending naked images with their phones.
It's a conundrum. Teens, by the virtue of being teens, have less ability to consider the full consequences of an impulsive action. Prosecution for child porn seems a little over the top, but there is reason, too, to clamp down.
An 18-year-old Ohio girl killed herself after a nude photo she texted to her boyfriend ended up in hundreds of cell phones.
Still, locking up thousands of teens doesn't seem the answer.
Look for this debate to continue.
- Kathy Aney