N.J. panel reviews consequences for teen ‘sexting’

Teenagers in New Jersey who send sexually explicit photos online could avoid criminal prosecution under terms of a bill advancing in the Legislature.

Sending and receiving nude images on cell phones and computers is called “sexting.” Under current law, teens who do so now face child pornography charges.

Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt is the main sponsor of legislation that would allow county prosecutors to enroll offenders in an educational program to learn about the responsible uses of electronic devices.

“Kids will do stupid things,” Lampitt said Monday. “We don’t want them in their impulsivity for these stupid decisions to be the lasting effect for their careers, their ability to get into college, or their ability to have employment.”

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Assemblyman Michael Carroll joined other members of the committee in voting for the legislation, but questions whether it goes far enough to decriminalize the behavior.

“If a 13-year-old girl makes the mistake of taking a picture of herself and sending it out into the World Wide Web, that’s her problem and a problem of her parents,” said Carroll. “It should not be a crime if some 17-year-old kid gets his hands on it and does what every other 17-year-old kid would do.”

Supporters of the measure say it would allow young people to become aware of the consequences of sending explicit photos.

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