Some college students admit to having indulged in a phone activity called “sexting.” Sexting is when someone sends sexually provocative pictures to others by a picture text message.
“I think it’s alright. I’ve done it. It’s their own privacy. In today’s society not much you can do about it,” said TJC student Geoff Starling.
Though it may seem typical of young people, they could be considered as registered sex offenders and charged with child pornography if the person in the picture was considered underage. A recent case is when highschool-aged girls took pictures in their bras and sent them to their male classmates. All of them were charged with child pornography.
“Each state is different. Any exposure to the unclothed breast, anus and genitals [of someone underaged] are considered child pornography,” said Detective Paul Robeson of Tyler Police Department.
Robeson said that according to the law anyone in possession of child pornography could be charged, even if it was an obscene picture of themselves when they were under 18. He also said that if someone sent a picture of themselves when they were underaged and is now over 18, whoever has the picture in that possession could still be charged with child pornography.
“It depends on how old she was when she took the picture,” Robeson said. “Even college students who are 17 are considered to be underage and could get in trouble.”
Students that take part in sexting receive pictures from classmates and sometimes from people off campus. However, some young adults do not know if the picture they received was from someone underage .
“If it’s someone 18 and older, they should be tagged [for child pornography], but if they are underage, they shouldn’t get charged, maybe a ticket,” said Stefanie Davis, TJC student.
Other situations that could get a college student in trouble for sexting is if there is a picture that someone finds obscene, no matter what age they are.
Robeson said that in order for police to investigate someone would have to make a complaint.
“What we do now is figure out who it came from. We can do search warrants on the cell phone and search all their records. We talk to witnesses, victims, suspects and contact their families,” Robeson said. “We can take the cellphone for evidence and very rarely do they get it back.”
Laws that pertain to sexting are under Penal Code Chapter 43 Section 43.22, 43.24 and 43.26, which state: “Obscene display or distribution. Sale, distribution, or display of harmful material. Possession or promotion of child pornography.”
“It’s a bad situation to be in. I say don’t do it all. If she sends a naked picture, then you can delete it,” said Kelcie Granberry, TJC student.
Robeson said that the person couldn’t be charged if they received a picture they did not want or solicit.
“Find out how old people are before you engage into something like that. You have to be real careful,” Robeson said.