For Immediate Release
SHURTLEFF BLASTS STUDY SAYING “SEXTING” IS AS HARMLESS AS SPIN-THE-BOTTLE
Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is denouncing the conclusion of a new study that says teens should not face child pornography charges for sending nude photos of themselves over cell phones. York University Associate Professor Peter Cumming presented a paper to 8,000 researchers claiming that sexting, slang for sex and text messaging, is relatively harmless and the modern equivalent of “playing doctor or spin-the-bottle.”
“Children playing doctor or spin-the-bottle don’t risk having millions of people, including child predators, looking at their nude photos from now until the end of time,” says Shurtleff. “No matter how the professor spins it, the fact is that minors sending nude photos, images or videos are engaging in the production, manufacture and distribution of child pornography.”
The Utah Attorney General’s Office oversees the Utah Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force which investigates and prosecutes cases involving child pornography and sexual exploitation of children on the Internet.
A U.S. family planning study released last December found that one out of five teens have participated in sexting. ICAC Educator Sariah Donnahoo travels all over Utah to warn children about sexting and to tell parents this: “Don’t let your teen become a download.”
“Today’s teens are looking for validation, love and affection,” says Donnahoo. “Unfortunately many teens do not have the capacity to see the far-reaching consequences of their actions. Sometimes parents and others are needed to protect teens from themselves.”
The United States Supreme Court made the distinction between child pornography and adult pornography. The court said the government has a compelling interest in protecting minor children from sexual exploitation and abuse.
“We should be teaching our youth the consequences of their behavior, rather than excusing it,” adds Shurtleff. “Countless ICAC cases involve teens being exploited for the gratification or profit of others. Sexting leaves long lasting scars.”
Information about ICAC and online safety can be found at the A.G.’s website at http://www.attorneygeneral.utah.gov/internet_safety.html. Additional information and resources are at: www.Netsmartz.org , www.NetSafeUtah.org, www.webwisekids.org, and www.iSAFE.org.