Sexting is electronically sending sexual content, such as photos, videos, or messages.  It is common and easy to do.  Up to 30 percent of adolescents say they have received sexting photos.  The problem is that these texts can be forwarded to other people, which can be embarrassing, shame-inducing, and can result in relational aggression and cyber-bullying by fellow classmates, who see the pictures or texts and weren’t supposed to.  Children should be taught that people who send these photos often regret it, and they may end up feeling scared, depressed, and even traumatized (Berger, 2018; Feldman, 2014).  

There are also legal ramifications.  If the person who sent the text or photo, or the one receiving it are under 18, child pornography laws can apply, turning teenagers into registered sex offenders.  The consequences depend on the state. As of February 2020, there is no law about teen sexting in California, and while sentencing may be lenient for minors, 18- and 19-year-olds can be prosecuted under child pornography laws, and it can be a felony and $2,500 fine.  Ten states including Florida, Georgia, and Utah have felony penalties for sexting.  In less punitive states, sexting is seen as a violation, and the judge typically orders a fine, counseling, or community service (Feldman, 2014; Pirius, 2020; Zapal, 2019).  

While many states still have outdated laws, the laws have started to change state by state.  Sexting between two minors may be treated with lighter consequences and some states like Vermont, Nevada, and Rhode Island don’t require that minors who have sexted register as sex offenders (Zapal, 2019).

It is not okay for a 13-year-old and a 35-year-old to be sexting, but for two 16-year-old’s who are boyfriend and girlfriend, there should be some leniency, right?  What do you think the law should be?



Berger, K. S. (2018). The developing person: Through Childhood and adolescence (11th

ed.). New York, NY: Worth. 

Feldman, R. S. (2014). Child development: A topical approach. Boston, MA: Pearson.

Pirius, R. (2020). California sexting laws. Retrieved from

Zapal, H. (2019). Sexting laws. Retrieved from