DAYTON, Ohio - Prosecutors and state officials in Ohio want to revise pornography laws due to rampant "sexting" among teens.
Sexting is sending nude photos or sexually charged notes via cell-phone text-messaging. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 39 percent of teens send or post sexually suggestive messages and 48 percent report receiving them.
Ohio has been the focus of several high-profile teen sexting incidents. Last week, two teens in Mason, Ohio were charged with first-degree misdemeanors after police found nude photos of classmates on their phones.
Under current state law, the teens could have been hit with felony charges and labeled as sex offenders.
"Kids do not realize the seriousness of what they are doing," Warren County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel told the Dayton Daily News. "I don't believe that these teenagers are felons or sex offenders, but these are illegal and dangerous actions and must be stopped."
Another teen avoided charges because she claimed she did not want to take part in any sexting.
Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray also wants to see laws updated as the state legislature debates bills regarding teen dating violence, MSNBC reports.
A teenage Ohio girl hanged herself last year after being taunted mercilessly about a nude photo she'd sent to her boyfriend, which, following a break-up, ended up going around her school via e-mails. Speaking to Matt Lauer of The Today Show on Wednesday, Cynthia Logan warned other parents of an ever-growing problem.
"She's my only child," said Logan, whose daughter was taunted as a slut and a whore by classmates. "I'm trying my best to get the message out there."
Internet safety expert Parry Aftab supports Logan's message about the dangers of sexting and the need for a legal deterrent.
"It depends on the age of the child," Aftab said. "If somebody's under the age of 18, it's child pornography, and even the girl that posted the pictures can be charged. They could be registered sex offenders at the end of all of this. Even at the age of 18, because it was sent to somebody underage, it's disseminating pornography to a minor. There are criminal charges that could be made here."
The Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection told AVN Online it all comes down to parental awareness and supervision, and educating minors.
"Sending a lascivious picture of anyone under 18 is child pornography, even if the person who is sending it is the child. With the new benefits that technology brings us, there also come new problems," ASACP CEO Joan Irvine. "Parents need to teach their child how serious this action is. If these images came from someone over 18, that person would be charged with a felony. We cannot have two standards in this situation. Parents can't blame other people and then say their child is blameless since they are under 18. Most teenagers do not have the maturity to understand the consequences of sending lascivious photo of themselves. As a society we need to teach them and not punish them."