Juvenile Justice

Pennsylvania Passes Juvenile Sexting Law, Which Some Say Goes Too Far

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Pennsylvania legislators last week passed a law that makes sending explicit photographs by minors, ages 12 to 17, a misdemeanor or summary offense, rather than a felony. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, 13 states in 2012 introduced or are considering sexting-related laws.

The Pennsylvania law, House Bill 815, works on a tiered system similar to penalties for underage drinking, and allows juveniles to avoid jail time for sexting offenses. First-time juvenile offenders avoid prosecution and instead attend education programs. Gov. Tom Corbett has said he will sign the bill into law.

The new law does allow prosecutors to file criminal charges against individuals who share the material with malicious intent.

The Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Association supports the legislation. Others wonder if the sexting laws regarding youths do more harm than good.

“Criminalizing kids who are using tools to engage in normal developmental behavior makes me sad,” Susannah Stern, a University of San Diego professor who studies adolescents and technology, told the Inquirer. She doesn’t think the laws will prevent the acts.

“It’s too easy, too tempting to use a camera as part of that sexual exploration,” she says.

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