Sexting & The Law in NC
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - "All types of kids do this," says Mecklenburg County Assistant District Attorney Kelly Stetzer. She's talking about sexting. And when it starts? "Early, around the age of 12," says family therapist Dr. Michael Howard.
Research shows 1 in 5 kids have sent a naked picture of themselves and almost half of kids have sent sexy text messages. Howard, executive director of Healing Solutions Counseling Center, warns parents, "They need to pay more attention. I think we're gonna see an increase, absolutely."
In North Carolina, kids caught sexting could be prosecuted under the state's child porn laws. "(They) could be in prison for 4,5,6 years and could be registered for the rest of their life as a sex offender," says Stetzer.
It seems crazy to punish kids so severely for just "being kids" and that's why some states are taking a second look at their child porn laws. Earlier this month, Pennsylvania made it so kids caught sexting would be "punished" but not have their lives "ruined," as one newspaper report put it.
In Mecklenburg County, most of these 'teens sexting other teens' cases don't go to court. They're often resolved by the DA's office and the police department, who try to apply lesser charges. Stetzer says, "Obviously all prosecutors know these laws are not meant to prosecute these children or persecute them. They were meant to protect the very people who are getting in trouble."
At least 20 states already address teen sexting. 13 states are looking into it. "Unfortunately to date, we're (North Carolina) not one of them. It's important that at some point, I think we address this," says Stetzer.
The states that have changed their laws made it so kids caught sexting may be charged with a misdemeanor or a face a fine or have to take an educational class.