Sexting; Teens Face Harsh Consequences of Explicit Messaging


Teenagers under 16 in Maryland who simply possess a sexually explicit image or video of another teen on their phones could face dire consequences: up to five years in prison and/or a fine of $2,500.

Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages, photos or videos using a phone. In a study released by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, one in five teenagers sexts, 80% of whom are under 18.

It is illegal in Maryland to photograph or film a minor engaged in sexual conduct, to distribute images or videos of a minor engaging in sexual conduct or to use a computer to publish information for the purpose of soliciting sexual conduct of a minor.

“It happens outside the school building, but one of the parties involved brings it up here, mentions it to somebody on staff,” said security assistant Paul White. “And then we deal with it from the perspective that this could become an issue in the building, and if we’re talking about two students who were saying things on social media, their friends are going to get involved in it and next thing you know we could have a big brouhaha.”

Most underage teens think that if they sext a boyfriend, girlfriend or crush who is also a minor and do not intend to share the images, they are not committing any of the above crimes. In Maryland, however, they are.

The penalty for breaking the state’s child pornography laws, whether one is a teen or an adult, is a felony charge of up to 10 years in prison and/or a $25,000 fine a�� all for the first offense. If convicted, the person will generally have to register as a sex offender.

RHS security carefully deals with cases involving social media harassment. “…It’s a fairly sensitive area, but [security] needs to interview the parties involved and see how it impacts the school, then get all the facts together and turn it over to the administration,” said White.