INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana lawmakers are moving cautiously in trying to
curb the practice of teens sending racy photos or videos of minors by cell
Many state lawmakers want to do something about so-called teen “sexting” —
the practice of teens sending nude or sexually explicit photos or videos of
minors by cell phone. But an interim study committee that looked at the
issue Wednesday has not decided what it should recommend to the full General
State Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, said lawmakers are trying to walk a fine
line between doing nothing on one hand to legislating morality on the other.
“It’s a national concern,” said Lawson, chairwoman of the Criminal Law and
Sentencing Policy Study Committee. “Parents are concerned, schools are
concerned. My job is to figure out what we should do here.”
Many states are grappling with the issue in the fast-changing world of
social networking and cyberspace.
This year, at least 16 states have introduced or are considering bills or
resolutions aimed at sexting, according to the National Conference of State
Legislatures. In general, the legislation is aimed at educating youth about
the risks of sexting, deterring them from the practice and imposing
penalties for taking part in the activity.
Illinois enacted a law this year that makes it a misdemeanor offense for
those under age 17 to knowingly disseminate materials that depict nudity or
other sexual activity by electronic transfer.
Arizona enacted a law that makes it a misdemeanor to use an electronic
communication device to transmit visual sexual depictions of minors.
The Indiana Senate passed a bill earlier this year that would make it a
separate delinquent act for those under age 18 to disseminate any material
that depicts nudity or sexual conduct of minors. But there was confusion
over the bill, and the issue was punted to the study committee.
Steve Johnson, executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys
Council, said there were simply too many problems with the bill as passed by
the Senate. For example, he said, it would mean that teens of legal age
could have sex but it would be a crime for them to exchange nude photos in
Nancy Willard, executive director of the Oregon-based Center for Safe and
Responsible Internet Use, commended Indiana lawmakers on Wednesday for
taking a slower, more comprehensive look at the issue.
She said legislatures should not focus their attention on trying to stop the
exchange of material between two minors in a private relationship, but
rather those who transfer the images to others.
“If you have a nude image of someone, you don’t send it on,” she said.
“That’s just a clear message that we’ve got to get out because that’s where
there’s the harm.”