Under Commonwealth law, teenagers under age 18 who consensually photograph and send images of their own bodies in nude, sexualised poses can be charged with production and distribution of child pornography. Anyone to whom they
send those images can be charged with possession of child pornography, even if the sender of the image intended for them to have it.
In NSW the age of consent is 16. This means a 17-year-old girl can legally have sex
with her boyfriend (or girlfriend) but if she films it, or if she photographs her own breasts and sends that image to her partner, she can be prosecuted under Commonwealth law. Understandably teenagers find it difficult to comprehend this legal
inconsistency and there are some serious questions to be raised.
American teenagers are increasingly facing prosecution as sex offenders as a result of the rapidly spreading practice of sending explicit photos of themselves by mobile phone — a trend known as sexting.
In the latest case, three
teenage girls in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, who sent nude self portraits, and the three male classmates who received the images, have all been served with child pornography charges.
The girls have been charged with manufacturing and disseminating
child pornography while the boys are accused of possessing it.
In Wisconsin, a 17-year-old was charged with child pornography after posting naked pictures of his girlfriend, who is a year younger, on the internet. In Rochester, New York, a boy
aged 16 faces seven years in jail for circulating an image of a girlfriend to friends.
"Sexting" is fast becoming a moral and legal headache for school heads and police throughout America. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and
Unplanned Pregnancy last month published a study suggesting one in five teens had sent or posted images of themselves in various stages of undress.
Jim Brown, an official at Glen Este high school in the Ohio town of Cincinnati, told the
Cincinnati Enquirer: If I were to go through the cell phones in this building right now, of 1,500 students I would venture to say that half to two- thirds have indecent photos, either of themselves or somebody else in school.
are facing increasing dilemmas because case law has not kept up with the impact of digital media on teenage behaviour. Young adults can face lengthy sentences resulting from relationships with younger teenagers, with penalties varying state by state.
Federal law also requires hefty punishment for teenaged relationships that span the legal start of adulthood at 17. An 18-year-old in their last year of high school who dates a 14-year-old in the first year faces up to 30 years in jail for a first