Alarming trend in sexting among teens

Sexting occurs when someone sends sexually explicit photos of themselves to others via text message or in some cases, a mobile app.

It takes only one click of the camera and a suggestive photo to turn it into a crime. New numbers show kids barely in their teens are getting caught.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien says in the past two years his office has charged 42 teenagers for committing sexting-related crimes.

Kids ages 13 and 16 had the highest number out of this group, and a child as young as 12 also faced charges related to sexting.

"Some of those crimes carry [a punishment of] registration as sex offenders, others will cause scholarships, college admission, or internally at the high school itself, problems with continuing their education and graduation," says O'Brien.

Charges related to sexting can include disseminating harmful matter to juveniles, pandering sexually oriented material and illegal use of a minor in nudity. Those charges can range from a misdemeanor to a felony.

"We hope people returning to school and become socially engaged again realize that, and avoid it," advises O'Brien.

The prosecutor's office is now offering workshops and assemblies to schools in Franklin County that can talk about sexting parameters.

"Our suggestion is: if you ever receive it, delete it immediately and encourage the person who may have sent it to you that they could be committing a serious offense and problems for your future," he adds.

It’s not just the person taking and sending the explicit photos that could get in trouble. O’Brien says if students show the images to their friends and others at school, then they could be charged with distributing pornography.

O'Brien says he hopes this is a lesson kids hear now so they don't learn it in front of a judge.

Prosecutor O'Brien, who's running for re-election, says he also hopes by creating a standard to what constitutes sexting will better help police and schools enforce the rules.

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