He agrees that pornography charges or other felonies are not appropriate, noting that "the laws have not caught up to technology."
But he says there has to be some way to educate students and their parents about the harm these photos can do - and the fact that, once they're out there, they often get widely circulated. Days before his staff discovered the girl's nude photos, the county prosecutor had been at the school to warn students against sexting.
"I don't think we're anywhere near having a handle on this," Weaver says. "It's beyond our scope as a school."
Parents are also often at a loss.
Some companies, such as WebSafety Inc., have developed software that parents can use to monitor certain activity on cell phones and computers. They can, for instance, block X-rated texting terms or be alerted when their child is using them, says Mike Adler, the company's CEO.
Photos are trickier, though, and often require a parent to manually check a child's phone.
And that's OK to do, says Dr. Terri Randall, an adolescent psychiatrist in Philadelphia
One quick clue that the criminal justice system is probably not the best venue for addressing the sexting crisis? A survey of the charges brought in the cases reflects that"depending on the jurisdiction"prosecutors have charged the senders of smutty photos, the recipients of smutty photos, those who save the smutty photos, and the hapless forwarders of smutty photos with the same crime: child pornography. Who is the victim here and who is the perpetrator? Everybody and nobody.
There may be an argument for police intervention in cases that involve a genuine threat or cyber-bullying, such as a recent Massachusetts incident in which the picture of a naked 14-year-old girl was allegedly sent to more than 100 cell phones, or a New York case involving a group of boys who turned a nude photo of a 15-year-old girl into crude animations and PowerPoint presentations. But are such cases really the same as the cases in which tipsy teen girls send their boyfriends naughty Valentine's Day pictures?
The argument for hammering every such case seems to be that allowing nude images of yourself to go public may have serious consequences, so let's nip it in the bud by charging kids with felonies, which will assuredly have serious consequences. In the Pennsylvania case, for instance, a police captain explained that the charges were brought because "it's very dangerous. Once it's on a cell phone, that cell phone can be put on the Internet where everyone in the world can get access to that juvenile picture." The argument that we must prosecute kids as the producers and purveyors of kiddie porn because they are too dumb to understand that their seemingly innocent acts can hurt them goes beyond paternalism. Child pornography laws intended to protect children should not be used to prosecute and then label children as sex offenders.
The mother of the New Jersey girl whose death inspired Megan's Law is criticizing prosecutors who charge teenagers for distributing nude photos of themselves.
Maureen Kanka said Thursday that the prosecutors are harming the children more than helping them.
Her comments came as authorities in Passaic County, N.J., charged a 14-year-old girl with possession and distribution of child pornography for posting nude photos of herself on MySpace.com.
If the girl is convicted, she would have to register with the state as a sex offender under Megan's Law.
The laws generally require governments to alert neighbors of convicted sexual predators in their midst.
Kanka says the girl needs help, not legal trouble.
CBS/AP) One summer night in 2007, a pair of 13-year-old northeastern Pennsylvania girls decided to strip down to their skivvies to beat the heat. As Marissa Miller talked on the phone and Grace Kelly flashed a peace sign, a third girl took a candid shot of the teens in their white bras.
It was harmless, innocent fun, the teens say.
But the picture somehow wound up on classmates' cell phones, and a prosecutor has threatened to charge Miller and Kelly with child pornography or open lewdness unless they participate in a five-week after-school program followed by probation.
On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal judge to block Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick Jr. from filing charges, saying that the teens didn't consent to having the picture distributed, and that in any event the image is not pornography.
"There was absolutely nothing wrong with that photograph," said Marissa's mother, MaryJo Miller, 44, of Tunkhannock.
"I certainly don't want pedophiles looking at my daughter in her bra, but I don't think that was the intention to begin with," she said in an interview with The Associated Press. "This is absolutely wrong on his part. It's abuse of his authority."
In Iowa, Jorge Canal is on the sex offenders registry because, at age 18, he was convicted of distributing obscene materials to a minor after he sent a picture of his penis by cellphone to a 14-year-old female friend who had requested it.
In Florida, Phillip Alpert, then 18, was charged with distributing child pornography and put on the sex offenders registry because after a fight, he sent a photograph of his nude 16-year old girlfriend by e-mail to dozens of people, including her parents.
In most states, teenagers who send or receive sexually explicit photographs by cellphone or computer " known as “sexting” " have risked felony child pornography charges and being listed on a sex offender registry for decades to come.
But there is growing consensus among lawyers and legislators that the child pornography laws are too blunt an instrument to deal with an adolescent cyberculture in which all kinds of sexual pictures circulate on sites like MySpace and Facebook