States, school districts trying to get ahead of sexting craziness

Anti-sexting laws are growing but are they accomplishing anything?

One of the biggest school districts in the country is trying to squelch the rampant scourge of sexting or the practice of sending nude or semi-nude photos by cell phone.

In Houston, the school district this week adopted a no "sexting" rule that states distribution of nude or semi-nude photographs or videos by text message will not be tolerated.  

Sexting with underage boys and girls in particular isn't tolerated in a lot of places but apparently any restrictions have had little impact.

About a third of young adults 20-26 and 20% of teens say they've sent or posted naked or semi-naked photos or videos of themselves, mostly to be "fun or flirtatious," a survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy last year. The group commissioned the survey with the Hearst Digital Media site CosmoGirl.com. Chicago-based market research firm Teenage Research Unlimited surveyed 1,280 teens and young adults online Sept. 25 to Oct. 3.

The study showed a third of teen boys and 40% of young men say they've seen nude or semi-nude images sent to someone else; about a quarter of teen girls and young adult women have. And 39% of teens and 59% of those ages 20-26 say they've sent suggestive text messages.

According to a PC World article, sexting has reached epidemic proportions. Many of the guilty aren't even aware they are committing a crime -- in Ohio, after several teens were busted for sexting, the perps were required to survey their peers to determine whether or not sexting was acknowledged as a crime. Of the 225 surveyed, only 31 knew.

But state legislatures are trying to change that perception. In 2009, lawmakers in at least nine states have introduced legislation aimed at "sexting"-the practice of sending nude or semi-nude photos of children by cell phone.  State legislation is aimed at deterring and applying appropriate penalties to teens who engage in sexting and closing loopholes so that sexual predators are prohibited from using text messaging to contact children. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures Web site, including New York, Ohio and New Jersey.

Interestingly New Hampshire is exploring a law that would protect young people who send sexually explicit photos by cell phone from being charged under New Hampshire's child pornography laws, according to an AP report. A House Criminal Justice and Public Safety subcommittee is looking at whether the state should carve out a limited exception for youths who send the photos to a boyfriend or girlfriend, the report stated.

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