Image Credit: Pixabay – PublicDomainPictures
We receive many phone calls from distraught parents who tell us their child has been charged with a crime. They were caught sexting at school, and are facing Sexual Exploitation of a Child and Internet Luring of a Child charges in Denver, Arapahoe, or El Paso County. They are always shocked when they learn their teenager has been exchanging sexually explicit photos and text messages with other students. But, when you consider today's sex-obsessed culture, it isn't surprising that kids begin engaging in sexual behavior earlier than ever before. In fact, I just came across a story last week that even I found surprising: A ten year old boy was caught sexting. If criminal charges are pressed against him, this little boy could be labeled a sex offender. Let's take a look at the two crimes he could be charged with:
Sexual Exploitation of a Child – C.R.S. 18-6-403: Sexting in Denver Schools
Sexual Exploitation of a Child is charged in Adams, Douglas, and Jefferson County whenever a person is found to be in possession of child pornography. This involves pictures or video of a child under the age of 18 engaging in sexually explicit behavior. Many people can't see how this relates to sexting – the images that are exchanged by teenagers are more of a currency – the girls in the photos are willing participants – often, they send their pictures unsolicited to boys they like. But, the statute doesn't take into account how or even why the pornography was obtained. If it is found on a teenager's phone, they can be charged with a crime. I have worked with many young teenage boys who received an explicit photo from a classmate without asking, and simply kept it on their phone.
[pullquote align=”center” textalign=”center” width=”100%”]Many of my clients received an explicit photo from a classmate without asking.[/pullquote]
Internet Luring of a Child – C.R.S. 18-3-306: An Invitation to Meet
[pullquote align=”right” textalign=”left” width=”30%”]Even consensual relationships can end with criminal charges.[/pullquote]Internet Luring of a Child is charged in Larimer, Pitkin, and Fremont County whenever a person engaged in sexually explicit conversation with a child under the age of 15 (and they themselves are 4 years or more older), and then make a suggestion or invitation to meet for any purpose (it doesn't have to be for sexual contact). In other words, a 13-year-old girl could have a 17-year-old boyfriend (not uncommon in this day and age). They could start sexting (discussing sexually explicit behavior), then decide to meet up later to grab ice cream. The young man could be charged with Internet Luring.
Sexual Behavior Younger and Younger: Ten Year Old Boy Could Face Charges
[pullquote align=”left” textalign=”left” width=”30%”]Kids are engaging in sexual behavior young than ever before.[/pullquote]Kids are engaging in sexual behavior at younger ages than ever before. The ten year old boy who was caught sexting could face criminal charges. If he lived in Colorado, he could be charged with Sexual Exploitation of a Child (even though the explicit pictures were of himself). He would be labeled as a juvenile sex offender, and be required to go through sex offender treatment. While juvenile sex offenders receive much better treatment than adults, a sex offense adjudication can have a negative impact on a child's life. The treatment is extremely invasive and extremely difficult to get through.
Parents Need to be Aware of their Children's Online Activity
The father of the ten year old boy has taken full responsibility for his son's actions. He is taking appropriate actions to punish and rehabilitate his son. But, despite his actions, his son could face criminal charges which will follow him for the rest of his life. The father is coming forward with his son's story to warn other parents to be careful giving their children a phone unsupervised. Our sex-absorbed culture combined with technology creates a perfect storm of opportunity for children to engage in sexual behavior. Watch what your children do online. Don't give phones to children at young ages. They can do damage to their futures without even knowing it.